Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
By G. K. Chesterton.
The Blue Cross.
The Secret Garden.
The Queer Feet.
The Flying Stars.
The Invisible Man.
The Honour of Israel Gow.
The Wrong Shape.
The Sins of Prince Saradine.
The Hammer of God.
The Eye of Apollo.
The Sign of the Broken Sword.
The Three Tools of Death.
The Blue Cross.
Between the silver ribbon of morning and the green glittering ribbon of
sea, the boat touched Harwich and let loose a swarm of folk like flies,
among whom the man we must follow was by no means conspicuous--nor
wished to be. There was nothing notable about him, except a slight
contrast between the holiday gaiety of his clothes and the official
gravity of his face. His clothes included a slight, pale grey jacket,
a white waistcoat, and a silver straw hat with a grey-blue ribbon. His
lean face was dark by contrast, and ended in a curt black beard that
looked Spanish and suggested an Elizabethan ruff. He was smoking a
cigarette with the seriousness of an idler. There was nothing about him
to indicate the fact that the grey jacket covered a loaded revolver,
that the white waistcoat covered a police card, or that the straw hat
covered one of the most powerful intellects in Europe. For this was
Valentin himself, the head of the Paris police and the most famous
investigator of the world; and he was coming from Brussels to London to
make the greatest arrest of the century.
Flambeau was in England. The police of three countries had tracked the
great criminal at last from Ghent to Brussels, from Brussels to the Hook
of Holland; and it was conjectured that he would take some advantage of
the unfamiliarity and confusion of the Eucharistic Congress, then
taking place in London. Probably he would travel as some minor clerk
or secretary connected with it; but, of course, Valentin could not be
certain; nobody could be certain about Flambeau.
It is many years now since this colossus of crime suddenly ceased
keeping the world in a turmoil; and when he ceased, as they said after
the death of Roland, there was a great quiet upon the earth. But in
his best days (I mean, of course, his worst) Flambeau was a figure as
statuesque and international as the Kaiser. Almost every morning the
daily paper announced that he had escaped the consequences of one
extraordinary crime by committing another. He was a Gascon of gigantic
stature and bodily daring; and the wildest tales were told of his
outbursts of athletic humour; how he turned the juge d'instruction
upside down and stood him on his head, "to clear his mind"; how he ran
down the Rue de Rivoli with a policeman under each arm. It is due to him
to say that his fantastic physical strength was generally employed in
such bloodless though undignified scenes; his real crimes were chiefly
those of ingenious and wholesale robbery. But each of his thefts was
almost a new sin, and would make a story by itself. It was he who ran
the great Tyrolean Dairy Company in London, with no dairies, no cows, no
carts, no milk, but with some thousand subscribers. These he served by
the simple operation of moving the little milk cans outside people's
doors to the doors of his own customers. It was he who had kept up an
unaccountable and close correspondence with a young lady whose whole
letter-bag was intercepted, by the extraordinary trick of photographing
his messages infinitesimally small upon the slides of a microscope. A
sweeping simplicity, however, marked many of his experiments. It is said
that he once repainted all the numbers in a street in the dead of night
merely to divert one traveller into a trap. It is quite certain that
he invented a portable pillar-box, which he put up at corners in quiet
suburbs on the chance of strangers dropping postal orders into it.
Lastly, he was known to be a startling acrobat; despite his huge figure,
he could leap like a grasshopper and melt into the tree-tops like a
monkey. Hence the great Valentin, when he set out to find Flambeau, was
perfectly aware that his adventures would not end when he had found him.
But how was he to find him? On this the great Valentin's ideas were
still in process of settlement.
There was one thing which Flambeau, with all his dexterity of disguise,
could not cover, and that was his singular height. If Valentin's quick
eye had caught a tall apple-woman, a tall grenadier, or even a tolerably
tall duchess, he might have arrested them on the spot. But all along his
train there was nobody that could be a disguised Flambeau, any more than
a cat could be a disguised giraffe. About the people on the boat he had
already satisfied himself; and the people picked up at Harwich or on
the journey limited themselves with certainty to six. There was a short
railway official travelling up to the terminus, three fairly short
market gardeners picked up two stations afterwards, one very short widow
lady going up from a small Essex town, and a very short Roman Catholic
priest going up from a small Essex village. When it came to the last
case, Valentin gave it up and almost laughed. The little priest was so
much the essence of those Eastern flats; he had a face as round and dull
as a Norfolk dumpling; he had eyes as empty as the North Sea; he had
several brown paper parcels, which he was quite incapable of collecting.
The Eucharistic Congress had doubtless sucked out of their local
stagnation many such creatures, blind and helpless, like moles
disinterred. Valentin was a sceptic in the severe style of France, and
could have no love for priests. But he could have pity for them, and
this one might have provoked pity in anybody. He had a large, shabby
umbrella, which constantly fell on the floor. He did not seem to know
which was the right end of his return ticket. He explained with a
moon-calf simplicity to everybody in the carriage that he had to be
careful, because he had something made of real silver "with blue stones"
in one of his brown-paper parcels. His quaint blending of Essex flatness
with saintly simplicity continuously amused the Frenchman till the
priest arrived (somehow) at Tottenham with all his parcels, and came
back for his umbrella. When he did the last, Valentin even had the good
nature to warn him not to take care of the silver by telling everybody
about it. But to whomever he talked, Valentin kept his eye open for
someone else; he looked out steadily for anyone, rich or poor, male or
female, who was well up to six feet; for Flambeau was four inches above
He alighted at Liverpool Street, however, quite conscientiously secure
that he had not missed the criminal so far. He then went to Scotland
Yard to regularise his position and arrange for help in case of need; he
then lit another cigarette and went for a long stroll in the streets of
London. As he was walking in the streets and squares beyond Victoria, he
paused suddenly and stood. It was a quaint, quiet square, very typical
of London, full of an accidental stillness. The tall, flat houses round
looked at once prosperous and uninhabited; the square of shrubbery in
the centre looked as deserted as a green Pacific islet. One of the four
sides was much higher than the rest, like a dais; and the line of this
side was broken by one of London's admirable accidents--a restaurant
that looked as if it had strayed from Soho. It was an unreasonably
attractive object, with dwarf plants in pots and long, striped blinds of
lemon yellow and white. It stood specially high above the street, and in
the usual patchwork way of London, a flight of steps from the street
ran up to meet the front door almost as a fire-escape might run up to
a first-floor window. Valentin stood and smoked in front of the
yellow-white blinds and considered them long.
The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen. A few
clouds in heaven do come together into the staring shape of one human
eye. A tree does stand up in the landscape of a doubtful journey in the
exact and elaborate shape of a note of interrogation. I have seen both
these things myself within the last few days. Nelson does die in the
instant of victory; and a man named Williams does quite accidentally
murder a man named Williamson; it sounds like a sort of infanticide.
In short, there is in life an element of elfin coincidence which people
reckoning on the prosaic may perpetually miss. As it has been well
expressed in the paradox of Poe, wisdom should reckon on the unforeseen.
Aristide Valentin was unfathomably French; and the French intelligence
is intelligence specially and solely. He was not "a thinking machine";
for that is a brainless phrase of modern fatalism and materialism. A
machine only is a machine because it cannot think. But he was a thinking
man, and a plain man at the same time. All his wonderful successes, that
looked like conjuring, had been gained by plodding logic, by clear
and commonplace French thought. The French electrify the world not by
starting any paradox, they electrify it by carrying out a truism. They
carry a truism so far--as in the French Revolution. But exactly because
Valentin understood reason, he understood the limits of reason. Only a
man who knows nothing of motors talks of motoring without petrol; only
a man who knows nothing of reason talks of reasoning without strong,
undisputed first principles. Here he had no strong first principles.
Flambeau had been missed at Harwich; and if he was in London at all,
he might be anything from a tall tramp on Wimbledon Common to a tall
toast-master at the Hotel Metropole. In such a naked state of nescience,
Valentin had a view and a method of his own.
In such cases he reckoned on the unforeseen. In such cases, when he
could not follow the train of the reasonable, he coldly and carefully
followed the train of the unreasonable. Instead of going to the right
places--banks, police stations, rendezvous--he systematically went to
the wrong places; knocked at every empty house, turned down every cul de
sac, went up every lane blocked with rubbish, went round every crescent
that led him uselessly out of the way. He defended this crazy course
quite logically. He said that if one had a clue this was the worst way;
but if one had no clue at all it was the best, because there was just
the chance that any oddity that caught the eye of the pursuer might be
the same that had caught the eye of the pursued. Somewhere a man must
begin, and it had better be just where another man might stop. Something
about that flight of steps up to the shop, something about the quietude
and quaintness of the restaurant, roused all the detective's rare
romantic fancy and made him resolve to strike at random. He went up the
steps, and sitting down at a table by the window, asked for a cup of
It was half-way through the morning, and he had not breakfasted; the
slight litter of other breakfasts stood about on the table to remind
him of his hunger; and adding a poached egg to his order, he proceeded
musingly to shake some white sugar into his coffee, thinking all the
time about Flambeau. He remembered how Flambeau had escaped, once by a
pair of nail scissors, and once by a house on fire; once by having to
pay for an unstamped letter, and once by getting people to look through
a telescope at a comet that might destroy the world. He thought his
detective brain as good as the criminal's, which was true. But he fully
realised the disadvantage. "The criminal is the creative artist; the
detective only the critic," he said with a sour smile, and lifted his
coffee cup to his lips slowly, and put it down very quickly. He had put
salt in it.
He looked at the vessel from which the silvery powder had come; it
was certainly a sugar-basin; as unmistakably meant for sugar as a
champagne-bottle for champagne. He wondered why they should keep salt in
it. He looked to see if there were any more orthodox vessels. Yes; there
were two salt-cellars quite full. Perhaps there was some speciality in
the condiment in the salt-cellars. He tasted it; it was sugar. Then he
looked round at the restaurant with a refreshed air of interest, to see
if there were any other traces of that singular artistic taste which
puts the sugar in the salt-cellars and the salt in the sugar-basin.
Except for an odd splash of some dark fluid on one of the white-papered
walls, the whole place appeared neat, cheerful and ordinary. He rang the
bell for the waiter.
When that official hurried up, fuzzy-haired and somewhat blear-eyed at
that early hour, the detective (who was not without an appreciation of
the simpler forms of humour) asked him to taste the sugar and see if
it was up to the high reputation of the hotel. The result was that the
waiter yawned suddenly and woke up.
"Do you play this delicate joke on your customers every morning?"
inquired Valentin. "Does changing the salt and sugar never pall on you
as a jest?"
The waiter, when this irony grew clearer, stammeringly assured him that
the establishment had certainly no such intention; it must be a most
curious mistake. He picked up the sugar-basin and looked at it; he
picked up the salt-cellar and looked at that, his face growing more and
more bewildered. At last he abruptly excused himself, and hurrying
away, returned in a few seconds with the proprietor. The proprietor also
examined the sugar-basin and then the salt-cellar; the proprietor also
Suddenly the waiter seemed to grow inarticulate with a rush of words.
"I zink," he stuttered eagerly, "I zink it is those two clergy-men."
"What two clergymen?"
"The two clergymen," said the waiter, "that threw soup at the wall."
"Threw soup at the wall?" repeated Valentin, feeling sure this must be
some singular Italian metaphor.
"Yes, yes," said the attendant excitedly, and pointed at the dark splash
on the white paper; "threw it over there on the wall."
Valentin looked his query at the proprietor, who came to his rescue with
"Yes, sir," he said, "it's quite true, though I don't suppose it has
anything to do with the sugar and salt. Two clergymen came in and drank
soup here very early, as soon as the shutters were taken down. They were
both very quiet, respectable people; one of them paid the bill and went
out; the other, who seemed a slower coach altogether, was some minutes
longer getting his things together. But he went at last. Only, the
instant before he stepped into the street he deliberately picked up
his cup, which he had only half emptied, and threw the soup slap on the
wall. I was in the back room myself, and so was the waiter; so I could
only rush out in time to find the wall splashed and the shop empty. It
don't do any particular damage, but it was confounded cheek; and I tried
to catch the men in the street. They were too far off though; I only
noticed they went round the next corner into Carstairs Street."
The detective was on his feet, hat settled and stick in hand. He had
already decided that in the universal darkness of his mind he could
only follow the first odd finger that pointed; and this finger was odd
enough. Paying his bill and clashing the glass doors behind him, he was
soon swinging round into the other street.
It was fortunate that even in such fevered moments his eye was cool and
quick. Something in a shop-front went by him like a mere flash; yet
he went back to look at it. The shop was a popular greengrocer and
fruiterer's, an array of goods set out in the open air and plainly
ticketed with their names and prices. In the two most prominent
compartments were two heaps, of oranges and of nuts respectively. On
the heap of nuts lay a scrap of cardboard, on which was written in bold,
blue chalk, "Best tangerine oranges, two a penny." On the oranges was
the equally clear and exact description, "Finest Brazil nuts, 4d. a lb."
M. Valentin looked at these two placards and fancied he had met this
highly subtle form of humour before, and that somewhat recently. He
drew the attention of the red-faced fruiterer, who was looking
rather sullenly up and down the street, to this inaccuracy in his
advertisements. The fruiterer said nothing, but sharply put each
card into its proper place. The detective, leaning elegantly on his
walking-cane, continued to scrutinise the shop. At last he said, "Pray
excuse my apparent irrelevance, my good sir, but I should like to ask
you a question in experimental psychology and the association of ideas."
The red-faced shopman regarded him with an eye of menace; but he
continued gaily, swinging his cane, "Why," he pursued, "why are two
tickets wrongly placed in a greengrocer's shop like a shovel hat that
has come to London for a holiday? Or, in case I do not make myself
clear, what is the mystical association which connects the idea of nuts
marked as oranges with the idea of two clergymen, one tall and the other
The eyes of the tradesman stood out of his head like a snail's; he
really seemed for an instant likely to fling himself upon the stranger.
At last he stammered angrily: "I don't know what you 'ave to do with it,
but if you're one of their friends, you can tell 'em from me that I'll
knock their silly 'eads off, parsons or no parsons, if they upset my
"Indeed?" asked the detective, with great sympathy. "Did they upset your
"One of 'em did," said the heated shopman; "rolled 'em all over the
street. I'd 'ave caught the fool but for havin' to pick 'em up."
"Which way did these parsons go?" asked Valentin.
"Up that second road on the left-hand side, and then across the square,"
said the other promptly.
"Thanks," replied Valentin, and vanished like a fairy. On the other side
of the second square he found a policeman, and said: "This is urgent,
constable; have you seen two clergymen in shovel hats?"
The policeman began to chuckle heavily. "I 'ave, sir; and if you arst
me, one of 'em was drunk. He stood in the middle of the road that
"Which way did they go?" snapped Valentin.
"They took one of them yellow buses over there," answered the man; "them
that go to Hampstead."
Valentin produced his official card and said very rapidly: "Call up two
of your men to come with me in pursuit," and crossed the road with such
contagious energy that the ponderous policeman was moved to almost agile
obedience. In a minute and a half the French detective was joined on the
opposite pavement by an inspector and a man in plain clothes.
"Well, sir," began the former, with smiling importance, "and what
Valentin pointed suddenly with his cane. "I'll tell you on the top of
that omnibus," he said, and was darting and dodging across the tangle of
the traffic. When all three sank panting on the top seats of the yellow
vehicle, the inspector said: "We could go four times as quick in a
"Quite true," replied their leader placidly, "if we only had an idea of
where we were going."
"Well, where are you going?" asked the other, staring.
Valentin smoked frowningly for a few seconds; then, removing his
cigarette, he said: "If you know what a man's doing, get in front of
him; but if you want to guess what he's doing, keep behind him. Stray
when he strays; stop when he stops; travel as slowly as he. Then you may
see what he saw and may act as he acted. All we can do is to keep our
eyes skinned for a queer thing."
"What sort of queer thing do you mean?" asked the inspector.
"Any sort of queer thing," answered Valentin, and relapsed into
The yellow omnibus crawled up the northern roads for what seemed like
hours on end; the great detective would not explain further, and perhaps
his assistants felt a silent and growing doubt of his errand. Perhaps,
also, they felt a silent and growing desire for lunch, for the hours
crept long past the normal luncheon hour, and the long roads of the
North London suburbs seemed to shoot out into length after length like
an infernal telescope. It was one of those journeys on which a man
perpetually feels that now at last he must have come to the end of the
universe, and then finds he has only come to the beginning of Tufnell
Park. London died away in draggled taverns and dreary scrubs, and then
was unaccountably born again in blazing high streets and blatant hotels.
It was like passing through thirteen separate vulgar cities all
just touching each other. But though the winter twilight was already
threatening the road ahead of them, the Parisian detective still sat
silent and watchful, eyeing the frontage of the streets that slid by on
either side. By the time they had left Camden Town behind, the policemen
were nearly asleep; at least, they gave something like a jump as
Valentin leapt erect, struck a hand on each man's shoulder, and shouted
to the driver to stop.
They tumbled down the steps into the road without realising why they
had been dislodged; when they looked round for enlightenment they found
Valentin triumphantly pointing his finger towards a window on the left
side of the road. It was a large window, forming part of the long
facade of a gilt and palatial public-house; it was the part reserved for
respectable dining, and labelled "Restaurant." This window, like all the
rest along the frontage of the hotel, was of frosted and figured glass;
but in the middle of it was a big, black smash, like a star in the ice.
"Our cue at last," cried Valentin, waving his stick; "the place with the
"What window? What cue?" asked his principal assistant. "Why, what proof
is there that this has anything to do with them?"
Valentin almost broke his bamboo stick with rage.
"Proof!" he cried. "Good God! the man is looking for proof! Why, of
course, the chances are twenty to one that it has nothing to do with
them. But what else can we do? Don't you see we must either follow one
wild possibility or else go home to bed?" He banged his way into the
restaurant, followed by his companions, and they were soon seated at a
late luncheon at a little table, and looked at the star of smashed glass
from the inside. Not that it was very informative to them even then.
"Got your window broken, I see," said Valentin to the waiter as he paid
"Yes, sir," answered the attendant, bending busily over the change, to
which Valentin silently added an enormous tip. The waiter straightened
himself with mild but unmistakable animation.
"Ah, yes, sir," he said. "Very odd thing, that, sir."
"Indeed?" Tell us about it," said the detective with careless curiosity.
"Well, two gents in black came in," said the waiter; "two of those
foreign parsons that are running about. They had a cheap and quiet
little lunch, and one of them paid for it and went out. The other was
just going out to join him when I looked at my change again and found
he'd paid me more than three times too much. 'Here,' I says to the chap
who was nearly out of the door, 'you've paid too much.' 'Oh,' he says,
very cool, 'have we?' 'Yes,' I says, and picks up the bill to show him.
Well, that was a knock-out."
"What do you mean?" asked his interlocutor.
"Well, I'd have sworn on seven Bibles that I'd put 4s. on that bill. But
now I saw I'd put 14s., as plain as paint."
"Well?" cried Valentin, moving slowly, but with burning eyes, "and
"The parson at the door he says all serene, 'Sorry to confuse your
accounts, but it'll pay for the window.' 'What window?' I says. 'The
one I'm going to break,' he says, and smashed that blessed pane with his
All three inquirers made an exclamation; and the inspector said under
his breath, "Are we after escaped lunatics?" The waiter went on with
some relish for the ridiculous story:
"I was so knocked silly for a second, I couldn't do anything. The man
marched out of the place and joined his friend just round the corner.
Then they went so quick up Bullock Street that I couldn't catch them,
though I ran round the bars to do it."
"Bullock Street," said the detective, and shot up that thoroughfare as
quickly as the strange couple he pursued.
Their journey now took them through bare brick ways like tunnels;
streets with few lights and even with few windows; streets that seemed
built out of the blank backs of everything and everywhere. Dusk was
deepening, and it was not easy even for the London policemen to guess
in what exact direction they were treading. The inspector, however, was
pretty certain that they would eventually strike some part of Hampstead
Heath. Abruptly one bulging gas-lit window broke the blue twilight like
a bull's-eye lantern; and Valentin stopped an instant before a little
garish sweetstuff shop. After an instant's hesitation he went in; he
stood amid the gaudy colours of the confectionery with entire gravity
and bought thirteen chocolate cigars with a certain care. He was clearly
preparing an opening; but he did not need one.
An angular, elderly young woman in the shop had regarded his elegant
appearance with a merely automatic inquiry; but when she saw the door
behind him blocked with the blue uniform of the inspector, her eyes
seemed to wake up.
"Oh," she said, "if you've come about that parcel, I've sent it off
"Parcel?" repeated Valentin; and it was his turn to look inquiring.
"I mean the parcel the gentleman left--the clergyman gentleman."
"For goodness' sake," said Valentin, leaning forward with his first
real confession of eagerness, "for Heaven's sake tell us what happened
"Well," said the woman a little doubtfully, "the clergymen came in about
half an hour ago and bought some peppermints and talked a bit, and then
went off towards the Heath. But a second after, one of them runs
back into the shop and says, 'Have I left a parcel!' Well, I looked
everywhere and couldn't see one; so he says, 'Never mind; but if it
should turn up, please post it to this address,' and he left me the
address and a shilling for my trouble. And sure enough, though I thought
I'd looked everywhere, I found he'd left a brown paper parcel, so I
posted it to the place he said. I can't remember the address now; it
was somewhere in Westminster. But as the thing seemed so important, I
thought perhaps the police had come about it."
"So they have," said Valentin shortly. "Is Hampstead Heath near here?"
"Straight on for fifteen minutes," said the woman, "and you'll come
right out on the open." Valentin sprang out of the shop and began to
run. The other detectives followed him at a reluctant trot.
The street they threaded was so narrow and shut in by shadows that when
they came out unexpectedly into the void common and vast sky they were
startled to find the evening still so light and clear. A perfect dome
of peacock-green sank into gold amid the blackening trees and the dark
violet distances. The glowing green tint was just deep enough to pick
out in points of crystal one or two stars. All that was left of the
daylight lay in a golden glitter across the edge of Hampstead and that
popular hollow which is called the Vale of Health. The holiday makers
who roam this region had not wholly dispersed; a few couples sat
shapelessly on benches; and here and there a distant girl still shrieked
in one of the swings. The glory of heaven deepened and darkened around
the sublime vulgarity of man; and standing on the slope and looking
across the valley, Valentin beheld the thing which he sought.
Among the black and breaking groups in that distance was one especially
black which did not break--a group of two figures clerically clad.
Though they seemed as small as insects, Valentin could see that one of
them was much smaller than the other. Though the other had a student's
stoop and an inconspicuous manner, he could see that the man was well
over six feet high. He shut his teeth and went forward, whirling his
stick impatiently. By the time he had substantially diminished the
distance and magnified the two black figures as in a vast microscope,
he had perceived something else; something which startled him, and yet
which he had somehow expected. Whoever was the tall priest, there could
be no doubt about the identity of the short one. It was his friend of
the Harwich train, the stumpy little cure of Essex whom he had warned
about his brown paper parcels.
Now, so far as this went, everything fitted in finally and rationally
enough. Valentin had learned by his inquiries that morning that a Father
Brown from Essex was bringing up a silver cross with sapphires, a
relic of considerable value, to show some of the foreign priests at the
congress. This undoubtedly was the "silver with blue stones"; and Father
Brown undoubtedly was the little greenhorn in the train. Now there
was nothing wonderful about the fact that what Valentin had found out
Flambeau had also found out; Flambeau found out everything. Also there
was nothing wonderful in the fact that when Flambeau heard of a sapphire
cross he should try to steal it; that was the most natural thing in all
natural history. And most certainly there was nothing wonderful about
the fact that Flambeau should have it all his own way with such a silly
sheep as the man with the umbrella and the parcels. He was the sort of
man whom anybody could lead on a string to the North Pole; it was not
surprising that an actor like Flambeau, dressed as another priest, could
lead him to Hampstead Heath. So far the crime seemed clear enough; and
while the detective pitied the priest for his helplessness, he almost
despised Flambeau for condescending to so gullible a victim. But when
Valentin thought of all that had happened in between, of all that had
led him to his triumph, he racked his brains for the smallest rhyme or
reason in it. What had the stealing of a blue-and-silver cross from a
priest from Essex to do with chucking soup at wall paper? What had it
to do with calling nuts oranges, or with paying for windows first and
breaking them afterwards? He had come to the end of his chase; yet
somehow he had missed the middle of it. When he failed (which was
seldom), he had usually grasped the clue, but nevertheless missed the
criminal. Here he had grasped the criminal, but still he could not grasp
The two figures that they followed were crawling like black flies
across the huge green contour of a hill. They were evidently sunk in
conversation, and perhaps did not notice where they were going; but they
were certainly going to the wilder and more silent heights of the Heath.
As their pursuers gained on them, the latter had to use the undignified
attitudes of the deer-stalker, to crouch behind clumps of trees and
even to crawl prostrate in deep grass. By these ungainly ingenuities the
hunters even came close enough to the quarry to hear the murmur of the
discussion, but no word could be distinguished except the word "reason"
recurring frequently in a high and almost childish voice. Once over
an abrupt dip of land and a dense tangle of thickets, the detectives
actually lost the two figures they were following. They did not find the
trail again for an agonising ten minutes, and then it led round the brow
of a great dome of hill overlooking an amphitheatre of rich and desolate
sunset scenery. Under a tree in this commanding yet neglected spot was
an old ramshackle wooden seat. On this seat sat the two priests still in
serious speech together. The gorgeous green and gold still clung to
the darkening horizon; but the dome above was turning slowly from
peacock-green to peacock-blue, and the stars detached themselves more
and more like solid jewels. Mutely motioning to his followers, Valentin
contrived to creep up behind the big branching tree, and, standing there
in deathly silence, heard the words of the strange priests for the first
After he had listened for a minute and a half, he was gripped by a
devilish doubt. Perhaps he had dragged the two English policemen to the
wastes of a nocturnal heath on an errand no saner than seeking figs on
its thistles. For the two priests were talking exactly like priests,
piously, with learning and leisure, about the most aerial enigmas of
theology. The little Essex priest spoke the more simply, with his round
face turned to the strengthening stars; the other talked with his
head bowed, as if he were not even worthy to look at them. But no more
innocently clerical conversation could have been heard in any white
Italian cloister or black Spanish cathedral.
The first he heard was the tail of one of Father Brown's sentences,
which ended: "... what they really meant in the Middle Ages by the
heavens being incorruptible."
The taller priest nodded his bowed head and said:
"Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason; but who can
look at those millions of worlds and not feel that there may well be
wonderful universes above us where reason is utterly unreasonable?"
"No," said the other priest; "reason is always reasonable, even in the
last limbo, in the lost borderland of things. I know that people charge
the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone
on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth, the
Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason."
The other priest raised his austere face to the spangled sky and said:
"Yet who knows if in that infinite universe--?"
"Only infinite physically," said the little priest, turning sharply
in his seat, "not infinite in the sense of escaping from the laws of
Valentin behind his tree was tearing his fingernails with silent fury.
He seemed almost to hear the sniggers of the English detectives whom
he had brought so far on a fantastic guess only to listen to the
metaphysical gossip of two mild old parsons. In his impatience he lost
the equally elaborate answer of the tall cleric, and when he listened
again it was again Father Brown who was speaking:
"Reason and justice grip the remotest and the loneliest star. Look
at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and
sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please.
Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon
is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don't fancy that all
that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason
and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of
pearl, you would still find a notice-board, 'Thou shalt not steal.'"
Valentin was just in the act of rising from his rigid and crouching
attitude and creeping away as softly as might be, felled by the one
great folly of his life. But something in the very silence of the tall
priest made him stop until the latter spoke. When at last he did speak,
he said simply, his head bowed and his hands on his knees:
"Well, I think that other worlds may perhaps rise higher than our
reason. The mystery of heaven is unfathomable, and I for one can only
bow my head."
Then, with brow yet bent and without changing by the faintest shade his
attitude or voice, he added:
"Just hand over that sapphire cross of yours, will you? We're all alone
here, and I could pull you to pieces like a straw doll."
The utterly unaltered voice and attitude added a strange violence to
that shocking change of speech. But the guarder of the relic only seemed
to turn his head by the smallest section of the compass. He seemed still
to have a somewhat foolish face turned to the stars. Perhaps he had not
understood. Or, perhaps, he had understood and sat rigid with terror.
"Yes," said the tall priest, in the same low voice and in the same still
posture, "yes, I am Flambeau."
Then, after a pause, he said:
"Come, will you give me that cross?"
"No," said the other, and the monosyllable had an odd sound.
Flambeau suddenly flung off all his pontifical pretensions. The great
robber leaned back in his seat and laughed low but long.
"No," he cried, "you won't give it me, you proud prelate. You won't give
it me, you little celibate simpleton. Shall I tell you why you won't
give it me? Because I've got it already in my own breast-pocket."
The small man from Essex turned what seemed to be a dazed face in the
dusk, and said, with the timid eagerness of "The Private Secretary":
"Are--are you sure?"
Flambeau yelled with delight.
"Really, you're as good as a three-act farce," he cried. "Yes, you
turnip, I am quite sure. I had the sense to make a duplicate of the
right parcel, and now, my friend, you've got the duplicate and I've got
the jewels. An old dodge, Father Brown--a very old dodge."
"Yes," said Father Brown, and passed his hand through his hair with the
same strange vagueness of manner. "Yes, I've heard of it before."
The colossus of crime leaned over to the little rustic priest with a
sort of sudden interest.
"You have heard of it?" he asked. "Where have you heard of it?"
"Well, I mustn't tell you his name, of course," said the little man
simply. "He was a penitent, you know. He had lived prosperously for
about twenty years entirely on duplicate brown paper parcels. And so,
you see, when I began to suspect you, I thought of this poor chap's way
of doing it at once."
"Began to suspect me?" repeated the outlaw with increased intensity.
"Did you really have the gumption to suspect me just because I brought
you up to this bare part of the heath?"
"No, no," said Brown with an air of apology. "You see, I suspected you
when we first met. It's that little bulge up the sleeve where you people
have the spiked bracelet."
"How in Tartarus," cried Flambeau, "did you ever hear of the spiked
"Oh, one's little flock, you know!" said Father Brown, arching his
eyebrows rather blankly. "When I was a curate in Hartlepool, there were
three of them with spiked bracelets. So, as I suspected you from the
first, don't you see, I made sure that the cross should go safe, anyhow.
I'm afraid I watched you, you know. So at last I saw you change the
parcels. Then, don't you see, I changed them back again. And then I left
the right one behind."
"Left it behind?" repeated Flambeau, and for the first time there was
another note in his voice beside his triumph.
"Well, it was like this," said the little priest, speaking in the same
unaffected way. "I went back to that sweet-shop and asked if I'd left a
parcel, and gave them a particular address if it turned up. Well, I knew
I hadn't; but when I went away again I did. So, instead of running after
me with that valuable parcel, they have sent it flying to a friend of
mine in Westminster." Then he added rather sadly: "I learnt that, too,
from a poor fellow in Hartlepool. He used to do it with handbags he
stole at railway stations, but he's in a monastery now. Oh, one gets to
know, you know," he added, rubbing his head again with the same sort of
desperate apology. "We can't help being priests. People come and tell us
Flambeau tore a brown-paper parcel out of his inner pocket and rent it
in pieces. There was nothing but paper and sticks of lead inside it. He
sprang to his feet with a gigantic gesture, and cried:
"I don't believe you. I don't believe a bumpkin like you could manage
all that. I believe you've still got the stuff on you, and if you don't
give it up--why, we're all alone, and I'll take it by force!"
"No," said Father Brown simply, and stood up also, "you won't take it
by force. First, because I really haven't still got it. And, second,
because we are not alone."
Flambeau stopped in his stride forward.
"Behind that tree," said Father Brown, pointing, "are two strong
policemen and the greatest detective alive. How did they come here, do
you ask? Why, I brought them, of course! How did I do it? Why, I'll tell
you if you like! Lord bless you, we have to know twenty such things
when we work among the criminal classes! Well, I wasn't sure you were
a thief, and it would never do to make a scandal against one of our
own clergy. So I just tested you to see if anything would make you show
yourself. A man generally makes a small scene if he finds salt in his
coffee; if he doesn't, he has some reason for keeping quiet. I changed
the salt and sugar, and you kept quiet. A man generally objects if
his bill is three times too big. If he pays it, he has some motive for
passing unnoticed. I altered your bill, and you paid it."
The world seemed waiting for Flambeau to leap like a tiger. But he was
held back as by a spell; he was stunned with the utmost curiosity.
"Well," went on Father Brown, with lumbering lucidity, "as you wouldn't
leave any tracks for the police, of course somebody had to. At every
place we went to, I took care to do something that would get us talked
about for the rest of the day. I didn't do much harm--a splashed wall,
spilt apples, a broken window; but I saved the cross, as the cross will
always be saved. It is at Westminster by now. I rather wonder you didn't
stop it with the Donkey's Whistle."
"With the what?" asked Flambeau.
"I'm glad you've never heard of it," said the priest, making a face.
"It's a foul thing. I'm sure you're too good a man for a Whistler. I
couldn't have countered it even with the Spots myself; I'm not strong
enough in the legs."
"What on earth are you talking about?" asked the other.
"Well, I did think you'd know the Spots," said Father Brown, agreeably
surprised. "Oh, you can't have gone so very wrong yet!"
"How in blazes do you know all these horrors?" cried Flambeau.
The shadow of a smile crossed the round, simple face of his clerical
"Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose," he said. "Has it never
struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins
is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of
fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren't a priest."
"What?" asked the thief, almost gaping.
"You attacked reason," said Father Brown. "It's bad theology."
And even as he turned away to collect his property, the three policemen
came out from under the twilight trees. Flambeau was an artist and a
sportsman. He stepped back and swept Valentin a great bow.
"Do not bow to me, mon ami," said Valentin with silver clearness. "Let
us both bow to our master."
And they both stood an instant uncovered while the little Essex priest
blinked about for his umbrella.
The Secret Garden
Aristide Valentin, Chief of the Paris Police, was late for his dinner,
and some of his guests began to arrive before him. These were, however,
reassured by his confidential servant, Ivan, the old man with a scar,
and a face almost as grey as his moustaches, who always sat at a table
in the entrance hall--a hall hung with weapons. Valentin's house was
perhaps as peculiar and celebrated as its master. It was an old house,
with high walls and tall poplars almost overhanging the Seine; but the
oddity--and perhaps the police value--of its architecture was this: that
there was no ultimate exit at all except through this front door, which
was guarded by Ivan and the armoury. The garden was large and elaborate,
and there were many exits from the house into the garden. But there was
no exit from the garden into the world outside; all round it ran a tall,
smooth, unscalable wall with special spikes at the top; no bad garden,
perhaps, for a man to reflect in whom some hundred criminals had sworn
As Ivan explained to the guests, their host had telephoned that he
was detained for ten minutes. He was, in truth, making some last
arrangements about executions and such ugly things; and though these
duties were rootedly repulsive to him, he always performed them with
precision. Ruthless in the pursuit of criminals, he was very mild about
their punishment. Since he had been supreme over French--and largely
over European--policial methods, his great influence had been honourably
used for the mitigation of sentences and the purification of prisons.
He was one of the great humanitarian French freethinkers; and the only
thing wrong with them is that they make mercy even colder than justice.
When Valentin arrived he was already dressed in black clothes and the
red rosette--an elegant figure, his dark beard already streaked with
grey. He went straight through his house to his study, which opened on
the grounds behind. The garden door of it was open, and after he had
carefully locked his box in its official place, he stood for a few
seconds at the open door looking out upon the garden. A sharp moon
was fighting with the flying rags and tatters of a storm, and Valentin
regarded it with a wistfulness unusual in such scientific natures as
his. Perhaps such scientific natures have some psychic prevision of the
most tremendous problem of their lives. From any such occult mood,
at least, he quickly recovered, for he knew he was late, and that his
guests had already begun to arrive. A glance at his drawing-room when he
entered it was enough to make certain that his principal guest was not
there, at any rate. He saw all the other pillars of the little party;
he saw Lord Galloway, the English Ambassador--a choleric old man with a
russet face like an apple, wearing the blue ribbon of the Garter. He
saw Lady Galloway, slim and threadlike, with silver hair and a face
sensitive and superior. He saw her daughter, Lady Margaret Graham, a
pale and pretty girl with an elfish face and copper-coloured hair. He
saw the Duchess of Mont St. Michel, black-eyed and opulent, and with
her her two daughters, black-eyed and opulent also. He saw Dr. Simon,
a typical French scientist, with glasses, a pointed brown beard, and a
forehead barred with those parallel wrinkles which are the penalty
of superciliousness, since they come through constantly elevating
the eyebrows. He saw Father Brown, of Cobhole, in Essex, whom he had
recently met in England. He saw--perhaps with more interest than any
of these--a tall man in uniform, who had bowed to the Galloways without
receiving any very hearty acknowledgment, and who now advanced alone to
pay his respects to his host. This was Commandant O'Brien, of the
French Foreign Legion. He was a slim yet somewhat swaggering figure,
clean-shaven, dark-haired, and blue-eyed, and, as seemed natural in an
officer of that famous regiment of victorious failures and successful
suicides, he had an air at once dashing and melancholy. He was by birth
an Irish gentleman, and in boyhood had known the Galloways--especially
Margaret Graham. He had left his country after some crash of debts, and
now expressed his complete freedom from British etiquette by swinging
about in uniform, sabre and spurs. When he bowed to the Ambassador's
family, Lord and Lady Galloway bent stiffly, and Lady Margaret looked
But for whatever old causes such people might be interested in each
other, their distinguished host was not specially interested in them. No
one of them at least was in his eyes the guest of the evening. Valentin
was expecting, for special reasons, a man of world-wide fame, whose
friendship he had secured during some of his great detective tours and
triumphs in the United States. He was expecting Julius K. Brayne, that
multi-millionaire whose colossal and even crushing endowments of small
religions have occasioned so much easy sport and easier solemnity for
the American and English papers. Nobody could quite make out whether Mr.
Brayne was an atheist or a Mormon or a Christian Scientist; but he was
ready to pour money into any intellectual vessel, so long as it was
an untried vessel. One of his hobbies was to wait for the American
Shakespeare--a hobby more patient than angling. He admired Walt Whitman,
but thought that Luke P. Tanner, of Paris, Pa., was more "progressive"
than Whitman any day. He liked anything that he thought "progressive."
He thought Valentin "progressive," thereby doing him a grave injustice.
The solid appearance of Julius K. Brayne in the room was as decisive
as a dinner bell. He had this great quality, which very few of us
can claim, that his presence was as big as his absence. He was a huge
fellow, as fat as he was tall, clad in complete evening black, without
so much relief as a watch-chain or a ring. His hair was white and well
brushed back like a German's; his face was red, fierce and cherubic,
with one dark tuft under the lower lip that threw up that otherwise
infantile visage with an effect theatrical and even Mephistophelean. Not
long, however, did that salon merely stare at the celebrated American;
his lateness had already become a domestic problem, and he was sent with
all speed into the dining-room with Lady Galloway on his arm.
Except on one point the Galloways were genial and casual enough. So long
as Lady Margaret did not take the arm of that adventurer O'Brien, her
father was quite satisfied; and she had not done so, she had decorously
gone in with Dr. Simon. Nevertheless, old Lord Galloway was restless and
almost rude. He was diplomatic enough during dinner, but when, over the
cigars, three of the younger men--Simon the doctor, Brown the priest,
and the detrimental O'Brien, the exile in a foreign uniform--all melted
away to mix with the ladies or smoke in the conservatory, then the
English diplomatist grew very undiplomatic indeed. He was stung
every sixty seconds with the thought that the scamp O'Brien might be
signalling to Margaret somehow; he did not attempt to imagine how. He
was left over the coffee with Brayne, the hoary Yankee who believed
in all religions, and Valentin, the grizzled Frenchman who believed in
none. They could argue with each other, but neither could appeal to
him. After a time this "progressive" logomachy had reached a crisis of
tedium; Lord Galloway got up also and sought the drawing-room. He lost
his way in long passages for some six or eight minutes: till he heard
the high-pitched, didactic voice of the doctor, and then the dull voice
of the priest, followed by general laughter. They also, he thought with
a curse, were probably arguing about "science and religion." But the
instant he opened the salon door he saw only one thing--he saw what
was not there. He saw that Commandant O'Brien was absent, and that Lady
Margaret was absent too.
Rising impatiently from the drawing-room, as he had from the
dining-room, he stamped along the passage once more. His notion of
protecting his daughter from the Irish-Algerian n'er-do-weel had become
something central and even mad in his mind. As he went towards the back
of the house, where was Valentin's study, he was surprised to meet his
daughter, who swept past with a white, scornful face, which was a second
enigma. If she had been with O'Brien, where was O'Brien! If she had
not been with O'Brien, where had she been? With a sort of senile and
passionate suspicion he groped his way to the dark back parts of the
mansion, and eventually found a servants' entrance that opened on to the
garden. The moon with her scimitar had now ripped up and rolled away all
the storm-wrack. The argent light lit up all four corners of the garden.
A tall figure in blue was striding across the lawn towards the study
door; a glint of moonlit silver on his facings picked him out as
He vanished through the French windows into the house, leaving Lord
Galloway in an indescribable temper, at once virulent and vague. The
blue-and-silver garden, like a scene in a theatre, seemed to taunt him
with all that tyrannic tenderness against which his worldly authority
was at war. The length and grace of the Irishman's stride enraged him as
if he were a rival instead of a father; the moonlight maddened him.
He was trapped as if by magic into a garden of troubadours, a Watteau
fairyland; and, willing to shake off such amorous imbecilities by
speech, he stepped briskly after his enemy. As he did so he tripped over
some tree or stone in the grass; looked down at it first with irritation
and then a second time with curiosity. The next instant the moon and the
tall poplars looked at an unusual sight--an elderly English diplomatist
running hard and crying or bellowing as he ran.
His hoarse shouts brought a pale face to the study door, the beaming
glasses and worried brow of Dr. Simon, who heard the nobleman's first
clear words. Lord Galloway was crying: "A corpse in the grass--a
blood-stained corpse." O'Brien at last had gone utterly out of his mind.
"We must tell Valentin at once," said the doctor, when the other had
brokenly described all that he had dared to examine. "It is fortunate
that he is here;" and even as he spoke the great detective entered the
study, attracted by the cry. It was almost amusing to note his typical
transformation; he had come with the common concern of a host and a
gentleman, fearing that some guest or servant was ill. When he was
told the gory fact, he turned with all his gravity instantly bright and
businesslike; for this, however abrupt and awful, was his business.
"Strange, gentlemen," he said as they hurried out into the garden, "that
I should have hunted mysteries all over the earth, and now one comes and
settles in my own back-yard. But where is the place?" They crossed the
lawn less easily, as a slight mist had begun to rise from the river; but
under the guidance of the shaken Galloway they found the body sunken
in deep grass--the body of a very tall and broad-shouldered man. He lay
face downwards, so they could only see that his big shoulders were clad
in black cloth, and that his big head was bald, except for a wisp or
two of brown hair that clung to his skull like wet seaweed. A scarlet
serpent of blood crawled from under his fallen face.
"At least," said Simon, with a deep and singular intonation, "he is none
of our party."
"Examine him, doctor," cried Valentin rather sharply. "He may not be
The doctor bent down. "He is not quite cold, but I am afraid he is dead
enough," he answered. "Just help me to lift him up."
They lifted him carefully an inch from the ground, and all doubts as
to his being really dead were settled at once and frightfully. The head
fell away. It had been entirely sundered from the body; whoever had
cut his throat had managed to sever the neck as well. Even Valentin
was slightly shocked. "He must have been as strong as a gorilla," he
Not without a shiver, though he was used to anatomical abortions, Dr.
Simon lifted the head. It was slightly slashed about the neck and jaw,
but the face was substantially unhurt. It was a ponderous, yellow face,
at once sunken and swollen, with a hawk-like nose and heavy lids--a face
of a wicked Roman emperor, with, perhaps, a distant touch of a Chinese
emperor. All present seemed to look at it with the coldest eye of
ignorance. Nothing else could be noted about the man except that, as
they had lifted his body, they had seen underneath it the white gleam of
a shirt-front defaced with a red gleam of blood. As Dr. Simon said,
the man had never been of their party. But he might very well have been
trying to join it, for he had come dressed for such an occasion.
Valentin went down on his hands and knees and examined with his closest
professional attention the grass and ground for some twenty yards round
the body, in which he was assisted less skillfully by the doctor, and
quite vaguely by the English lord. Nothing rewarded their grovellings
except a few twigs, snapped or chopped into very small lengths, which
Valentin lifted for an instant's examination and then tossed away.
"Twigs," he said gravely; "twigs, and a total stranger with his head cut
off; that is all there is on this lawn."
There was an almost creepy stillness, and then the unnerved Galloway
called out sharply:
"Who's that! Who's that over there by the garden wall!"
A small figure with a foolishly large head drew waveringly near them in
the moonlit haze; looked for an instant like a goblin, but turned out to
be the harmless little priest whom they had left in the drawing-room.
"I say," he said meekly, "there are no gates to this garden, do you
Valentin's black brows had come together somewhat crossly, as they did
on principle at the sight of the cassock. But he was far too just a man
to deny the relevance of the remark. "You are right," he said. "Before
we find out how he came to be killed, we may have to find out how he
came to be here. Now listen to me, gentlemen. If it can be done without
prejudice to my position and duty, we shall all agree that certain
distinguished names might well be kept out of this. There are ladies,
gentlemen, and there is a foreign ambassador. If we must mark it down as
a crime, then it must be followed up as a crime. But till then I can use
my own discretion. I am the head of the police; I am so public that I
can afford to be private. Please Heaven, I will clear everyone of my own
guests before I call in my men to look for anybody else. Gentlemen, upon
your honour, you will none of you leave the house till tomorrow at noon;
there are bedrooms for all. Simon, I think you know where to find my
man, Ivan, in the front hall; he is a confidential man. Tell him to
leave another servant on guard and come to me at once. Lord Galloway,
you are certainly the best person to tell the ladies what has happened,
and prevent a panic. They also must stay. Father Brown and I will remain
with the body."
When this spirit of the captain spoke in Valentin he was obeyed like a
bugle. Dr. Simon went through to the armoury and routed out Ivan, the
public detective's private detective. Galloway went to the drawing-room
and told the terrible news tactfully enough, so that by the time the
company assembled there the ladies were already startled and already
soothed. Meanwhile the good priest and the good atheist stood at the
head and foot of the dead man motionless in the moonlight, like symbolic
statues of their two philosophies of death.
Ivan, the confidential man with the scar and the moustaches, came out
of the house like a cannon ball, and came racing across the lawn to
Valentin like a dog to his master. His livid face was quite lively
with the glow of this domestic detective story, and it was with almost
unpleasant eagerness that he asked his master's permission to examine
"Yes; look, if you like, Ivan," said Valentin, "but don't be long. We
must go in and thrash this out in the house."
Ivan lifted the head, and then almost let it drop.
"Why," he gasped, "it's--no, it isn't; it can't be. Do you know this
"No," said Valentin indifferently; "we had better go inside."
Between them they carried the corpse to a sofa in the study, and then
all made their way to the drawing-room.
The detective sat down at a desk quietly, and even without hesitation;
but his eye was the iron eye of a judge at assize. He made a few rapid
notes upon paper in front of him, and then said shortly: "Is everybody
"Not Mr. Brayne," said the Duchess of Mont St. Michel, looking round.
"No," said Lord Galloway in a hoarse, harsh voice. "And not Mr. Neil
O'Brien, I fancy. I saw that gentleman walking in the garden when the
corpse was still warm."
"Ivan," said the detective, "go and fetch Commandant O'Brien and Mr.
Brayne. Mr. Brayne, I know, is finishing a cigar in the dining-room;
Commandant O'Brien, I think, is walking up and down the conservatory. I
am not sure."
The faithful attendant flashed from the room, and before anyone could
stir or speak Valentin went on with the same soldierly swiftness of
"Everyone here knows that a dead man has been found in the garden, his
head cut clean from his body. Dr. Simon, you have examined it. Do you
think that to cut a man's throat like that would need great force? Or,
perhaps, only a very sharp knife?"
"I should say that it could not be done with a knife at all," said the
"Have you any thought," resumed Valentin, "of a tool with which it could
"Speaking within modern probabilities, I really haven't," said the
doctor, arching his painful brows. "It's not easy to hack a neck through
even clumsily, and this was a very clean cut. It could be done with a
battle-axe or an old headsman's axe, or an old two-handed sword."
"But, good heavens!" cried the Duchess, almost in hysterics, "there
aren't any two-handed swords and battle-axes round here."
Valentin was still busy with the paper in front of him. "Tell me," he
said, still writing rapidly, "could it have been done with a long French
A low knocking came at the door, which, for some unreasonable reason,
curdled everyone's blood like the knocking in Macbeth. Amid that frozen
silence Dr. Simon managed to say: "A sabre--yes, I suppose it could."
"Thank you," said Valentin. "Come in, Ivan."
The confidential Ivan opened the door and ushered in Commandant Neil
O'Brien, whom he had found at last pacing the garden again.
The Irish officer stood up disordered and defiant on the threshold.
"What do you want with me?" he cried.
"Please sit down," said Valentin in pleasant, level tones. "Why, you
aren't wearing your sword. Where is it?"
"I left it on the library table," said O'Brien, his brogue deepening in
his disturbed mood. "It was a nuisance, it was getting--"
"Ivan," said Valentin, "please go and get the Commandant's sword from
the library." Then, as the servant vanished, "Lord Galloway says he saw
you leaving the garden just before he found the corpse. What were you
doing in the garden?"
The Commandant flung himself recklessly into a chair. "Oh," he cried in
pure Irish, "admirin' the moon. Communing with Nature, me bhoy."
A heavy silence sank and endured, and at the end of it came again that
trivial and terrible knocking. Ivan reappeared, carrying an empty steel
scabbard. "This is all I can find," he said.
"Put it on the table," said Valentin, without looking up.
There was an inhuman silence in the room, like that sea of inhuman
silence round the dock of the condemned murderer. The Duchess's weak
exclamations had long ago died away. Lord Galloway's swollen hatred was
satisfied and even sobered. The voice that came was quite unexpected.
"I think I can tell you," cried Lady Margaret, in that clear, quivering
voice with which a courageous woman speaks publicly. "I can tell you
what Mr. O'Brien was doing in the garden, since he is bound to
silence. He was asking me to marry him. I refused; I said in my family
circumstances I could give him nothing but my respect. He was a little
angry at that; he did not seem to think much of my respect. I wonder,"
she added, with rather a wan smile, "if he will care at all for it now.
For I offer it him now. I will swear anywhere that he never did a thing
Lord Galloway had edged up to his daughter, and was intimidating her in
what he imagined to be an undertone. "Hold your tongue, Maggie," he said
in a thunderous whisper. "Why should you shield the fellow? Where's his
sword? Where's his confounded cavalry--"
He stopped because of the singular stare with which his daughter was
regarding him, a look that was indeed a lurid magnet for the whole
"You old fool!" she said in a low voice without pretence of piety, "what
do you suppose you are trying to prove? I tell you this man was innocent
while with me. But if he wasn't innocent, he was still with me. If he
murdered a man in the garden, who was it who must have seen--who must
at least have known? Do you hate Neil so much as to put your own
Lady Galloway screamed. Everyone else sat tingling at the touch of those
satanic tragedies that have been between lovers before now. They saw
the proud, white face of the Scotch aristocrat and her lover, the Irish
adventurer, like old portraits in a dark house. The long silence was
full of formless historical memories of murdered husbands and poisonous
In the centre of this morbid silence an innocent voice said: "Was it a
very long cigar?"
The change of thought was so sharp that they had to look round to see
who had spoken.
"I mean," said little Father Brown, from the corner of the room, "I
mean that cigar Mr. Brayne is finishing. It seems nearly as long as a
Despite the irrelevance there was assent as well as irritation in
Valentin's face as he lifted his head.
"Quite right," he remarked sharply. "Ivan, go and see about Mr. Brayne
again, and bring him here at once."
The instant the factotum had closed the door, Valentin addressed the
girl with an entirely new earnestness.
"Lady Margaret," he said, "we all feel, I am sure, both gratitude
and admiration for your act in rising above your lower dignity and
explaining the Commandant's conduct. But there is a hiatus still.
Lord Galloway, I understand, met you passing from the study to the
drawing-room, and it was only some minutes afterwards that he found the
garden and the Commandant still walking there."
"You have to remember," replied Margaret, with a faint irony in her
voice, "that I had just refused him, so we should scarcely have come
back arm in arm. He is a gentleman, anyhow; and he loitered behind--and
so got charged with murder."
"In those few moments," said Valentin gravely, "he might really--"
The knock came again, and Ivan put in his scarred face.
"Beg pardon, sir," he said, "but Mr. Brayne has left the house."
"Left!" cried Valentin, and rose for the first time to his feet.
"Gone. Scooted. Evaporated," replied Ivan in humorous French. "His hat
and coat are gone, too, and I'll tell you something to cap it all. I ran
outside the house to find any traces of him, and I found one, and a big
"What do you mean?" asked Valentin.
"I'll show you," said his servant, and reappeared with a flashing naked
cavalry sabre, streaked with blood about the point and edge. Everyone in
the room eyed it as if it were a thunderbolt; but the experienced Ivan
went on quite quietly:
"I found this," he said, "flung among the bushes fifty yards up the road
to Paris. In other words, I found it just where your respectable Mr.
Brayne threw it when he ran away."
There was again a silence, but of a new sort. Valentin took the sabre,
examined it, reflected with unaffected concentration of thought, and
then turned a respectful face to O'Brien. "Commandant," he said, "we
trust you will always produce this weapon if it is wanted for police
examination. Meanwhile," he added, slapping the steel back in the
ringing scabbard, "let me return you your sword."
At the military symbolism of the action the audience could hardly
refrain from applause.
For Neil O'Brien, indeed, that gesture was the turning-point of
existence. By the time he was wandering in the mysterious garden again
in the colours of the morning the tragic futility of his ordinary mien
had fallen from him; he was a man with many reasons for happiness. Lord
Galloway was a gentleman, and had offered him an apology. Lady Margaret
was something better than a lady, a woman at least, and had perhaps
given him something better than an apology, as they drifted among the
old flowerbeds before breakfast. The whole company was more lighthearted
and humane, for though the riddle of the death remained, the load of
suspicion was lifted off them all, and sent flying off to Paris with the
strange millionaire--a man they hardly knew. The devil was cast out of
the house--he had cast himself out.
Still, the riddle remained; and when O'Brien threw himself on a garden
seat beside Dr. Simon, that keenly scientific person at once resumed
it. He did not get much talk out of O'Brien, whose thoughts were on
"I can't say it interests me much," said the Irishman frankly,
"especially as it seems pretty plain now. Apparently Brayne hated this
stranger for some reason; lured him into the garden, and killed him with
my sword. Then he fled to the city, tossing the sword away as he went.
By the way, Ivan tells me the dead man had a Yankee dollar in his
pocket. So he was a countryman of Brayne's, and that seems to clinch it.
I don't see any difficulties about the business."
"There are five colossal difficulties," said the doctor quietly; "like
high walls within walls. Don't mistake me. I don't doubt that Brayne
did it; his flight, I fancy, proves that. But as to how he did it.
First difficulty: Why should a man kill another man with a great hulking
sabre, when he can almost kill him with a pocket knife and put it back
in his pocket? Second difficulty: Why was there no noise or outcry?
Does a man commonly see another come up waving a scimitar and offer
no remarks? Third difficulty: A servant watched the front door all the
evening; and a rat cannot get into Valentin's garden anywhere. How did
the dead man get into the garden? Fourth difficulty: Given the same
conditions, how did Brayne get out of the garden?"
"And the fifth," said Neil, with eyes fixed on the English priest who
was coming slowly up the path.
"Is a trifle, I suppose," said the doctor, "but I think an odd one. When
I first saw how the head had been slashed, I supposed the assassin had
struck more than once. But on examination I found many cuts across the
truncated section; in other words, they were struck after the head was
off. Did Brayne hate his foe so fiendishly that he stood sabring his
body in the moonlight?"
"Horrible!" said O'Brien, and shuddered.
The little priest, Brown, had arrived while they were talking, and had
waited, with characteristic shyness, till they had finished. Then he
"I say, I'm sorry to interrupt. But I was sent to tell you the news!"
"News?" repeated Simon, and stared at him rather painfully through his
"Yes, I'm sorry," said Father Brown mildly. "There's been another
murder, you know."
Both men on the seat sprang up, leaving it rocking.
"And, what's stranger still," continued the priest, with his dull eye
on the rhododendrons, "it's the same disgusting sort; it's another
beheading. They found the second head actually bleeding into the river,
a few yards along Brayne's road to Paris; so they suppose that he--"
"Great Heaven!" cried O'Brien. "Is Brayne a monomaniac?"
"There are American vendettas," said the priest impassively. Then he
added: "They want you to come to the library and see it."
Commandant O'Brien followed the others towards the inquest, feeling
decidedly sick. As a soldier, he loathed all this secretive carnage;
where were these extravagant amputations going to stop? First one
head was hacked off, and then another; in this case (he told himself
bitterly) it was not true that two heads were better than one. As he
crossed the study he almost staggered at a shocking coincidence. Upon
Valentin's table lay the coloured picture of yet a third bleeding head;
and it was the head of Valentin himself. A second glance showed him it
was only a Nationalist paper, called The Guillotine, which every week
showed one of its political opponents with rolling eyes and writhing
features just after execution; for Valentin was an anti-clerical of some
note. But O'Brien was an Irishman, with a kind of chastity even in his
sins; and his gorge rose against that great brutality of the intellect
which belongs only to France. He felt Paris as a whole, from the
grotesques on the Gothic churches to the gross caricatures in the
newspapers. He remembered the gigantic jests of the Revolution. He saw
the whole city as one ugly energy, from the sanguinary sketch lying on
Valentin's table up to where, above a mountain and forest of gargoyles,
the great devil grins on Notre Dame.
The library was long, low, and dark; what light entered it shot from
under low blinds and had still some of the ruddy tinge of morning.
Valentin and his servant Ivan were waiting for them at the upper end of
a long, slightly-sloping desk, on which lay the mortal remains, looking
enormous in the twilight. The big black figure and yellow face of the
man found in the garden confronted them essentially unchanged. The
second head, which had been fished from among the river reeds that
morning, lay streaming and dripping beside it; Valentin's men were still
seeking to recover the rest of this second corpse, which was supposed
to be afloat. Father Brown, who did not seem to share O'Brien's
sensibilities in the least, went up to the second head and examined it
with his blinking care. It was little more than a mop of wet white hair,
fringed with silver fire in the red and level morning light; the face,
which seemed of an ugly, empurpled and perhaps criminal type, had been
much battered against trees or stones as it tossed in the water.
"Good morning, Commandant O'Brien," said Valentin, with quiet
cordiality. "You have heard of Brayne's last experiment in butchery, I
Father Brown was still bending over the head with white hair, and he
said, without looking up:
"I suppose it is quite certain that Brayne cut off this head, too."
"Well, it seems common sense," said Valentin, with his hands in his
pockets. "Killed in the same way as the other. Found within a few yards
of the other. And sliced by the same weapon which we know he carried
"Yes, yes; I know," replied Father Brown submissively. "Yet, you know, I
doubt whether Brayne could have cut off this head."
"Why not?" inquired Dr. Simon, with a rational stare.
"Well, doctor," said the priest, looking up blinking, "can a man cut off
his own head? I don't know."
O'Brien felt an insane universe crashing about his ears; but the doctor
sprang forward with impetuous practicality and pushed back the wet white
"Oh, there's no doubt it's Brayne," said the priest quietly. "He had
exactly that chip in the left ear."
The detective, who had been regarding the priest with steady and
glittering eyes, opened his clenched mouth and said sharply: "You seem
to know a lot about him, Father Brown."
"I do," said the little man simply. "I've been about with him for some
weeks. He was thinking of joining our church."
The star of the fanatic sprang into Valentin's eyes; he strode towards
the priest with clenched hands. "And, perhaps," he cried, with a
blasting sneer, "perhaps he was also thinking of leaving all his money
to your church."
"Perhaps he was," said Brown stolidly; "it is possible."
"In that case," cried Valentin, with a dreadful smile, "you may indeed
know a great deal about him. About his life and about his--"
Commandant O'Brien laid a hand on Valentin's arm. "Drop that slanderous
rubbish, Valentin," he said, "or there may be more swords yet."
But Valentin (under the steady, humble gaze of the priest) had already
recovered himself. "Well," he said shortly, "people's private opinions
can wait. You gentlemen are still bound by your promise to stay; you
must enforce it on yourselves--and on each other. Ivan here will tell
you anything more you want to know; I must get to business and write to
the authorities. We can't keep this quiet any longer. I shall be writing
in my study if there is any more news."
"Is there any more news, Ivan?" asked Dr. Simon, as the chief of police
strode out of the room.
"Only one more thing, I think, sir," said Ivan, wrinkling up his grey
old face, "but that's important, too, in its way. There's that old
buffer you found on the lawn," and he pointed without pretence of
reverence at the big black body with the yellow head. "We've found out
who he is, anyhow."
"Indeed!" cried the astonished doctor, "and who is he?"
"His name was Arnold Becker," said the under-detective, "though he went
by many aliases. He was a wandering sort of scamp, and is known to have
been in America; so that was where Brayne got his knife into him. We
didn't have much to do with him ourselves, for he worked mostly in
Germany. We've communicated, of course, with the German police. But,
oddly enough, there was a twin brother of his, named Louis Becker,
whom we had a great deal to do with. In fact, we found it necessary to
guillotine him only yesterday. Well, it's a rum thing, gentlemen, but
when I saw that fellow flat on the lawn I had the greatest jump of my
life. If I hadn't seen Louis Becker guillotined with my own eyes,
I'd have sworn it was Louis Becker lying there in the grass. Then, of
course, I remembered his twin brother in Germany, and following up the
The explanatory Ivan stopped, for the excellent reason that nobody was
listening to him. The Commandant and the doctor were both staring at
Father Brown, who had sprung stiffly to his feet, and was holding his
temples tight like a man in sudden and violent pain.
"Stop, stop, stop!" he cried; "stop talking a minute, for I see half.
Will God give me strength? Will my brain make the one jump and see all?
Heaven help me! I used to be fairly good at thinking. I could paraphrase
any page in Aquinas once. Will my head split--or will it see? I see
half--I only see half."
He buried his head in his hands, and stood in a sort of rigid torture
of thought or prayer, while the other three could only go on staring at
this last prodigy of their wild twelve hours.
When Father Brown's hands fell they showed a face quite fresh and
serious, like a child's. He heaved a huge sigh, and said: "Let us get
this said and done with as quickly as possible. Look here, this will
be the quickest way to convince you all of the truth." He turned to the
doctor. "Dr. Simon," he said, "you have a strong head-piece, and I heard
you this morning asking the five hardest questions about this business.
Well, if you will ask them again, I will answer them."
Simon's pince-nez dropped from his nose in his doubt and wonder, but
he answered at once. "Well, the first question, you know, is why a man
should kill another with a clumsy sabre at all when a man can kill with
"A man cannot behead with a bodkin," said Brown calmly, "and for this
murder beheading was absolutely necessary."
"Why?" asked O'Brien, with interest.
"And the next question?" asked Father Brown.
"Well, why didn't the man cry out or anything?" asked the doctor;
"sabres in gardens are certainly unusual."
"Twigs," said the priest gloomily, and turned to the window which looked
on the scene of death. "No one saw the point of the twigs. Why should
they lie on that lawn (look at it) so far from any tree? They were not
snapped off; they were chopped off. The murderer occupied his enemy
with some tricks with the sabre, showing how he could cut a branch in
mid-air, or what-not. Then, while his enemy bent down to see the result,
a silent slash, and the head fell."
"Well," said the doctor slowly, "that seems plausible enough. But my
next two questions will stump anyone."
The priest still stood looking critically out of the window and waited.
"You know how all the garden was sealed up like an air-tight chamber,"
went on the doctor. "Well, how did the strange man get into the garden?"
Without turning round, the little priest answered: "There never was any
strange man in the garden."
There was a silence, and then a sudden cackle of almost childish
laughter relieved the strain. The absurdity of Brown's remark moved Ivan
to open taunts.
"Oh!" he cried; "then we didn't lug a great fat corpse on to a sofa last
night? He hadn't got into the garden, I suppose?"
"Got into the garden?" repeated Brown reflectively. "No, not entirely."
"Hang it all," cried Simon, "a man gets into a garden, or he doesn't."
"Not necessarily," said the priest, with a faint smile. "What is the
nest question, doctor?"
"I fancy you're ill," exclaimed Dr. Simon sharply; "but I'll ask the
next question if you like. How did Brayne get out of the garden?"
"He didn't get out of the garden," said the priest, still looking out of
"Didn't get out of the garden?" exploded Simon.
"Not completely," said Father Brown.
Simon shook his fists in a frenzy of French logic. "A man gets out of a
garden, or he doesn't," he cried.
"Not always," said Father Brown.
Dr. Simon sprang to his feet impatiently. "I have no time to spare on
such senseless talk," he cried angrily. "If you can't understand a man
being on one side of a wall or the other, I won't trouble you further."
"Doctor," said the cleric very gently, "we have always got on very
pleasantly together. If only for the sake of old friendship, stop and
tell me your fifth question."
The impatient Simon sank into a chair by the door and said briefly: "The
head and shoulders were cut about in a queer way. It seemed to be done
"Yes," said the motionless priest, "it was done so as to make you assume
exactly the one simple falsehood that you did assume. It was done to
make you take for granted that the head belonged to the body."
The borderland of the brain, where all the monsters are made, moved
horribly in the Gaelic O'Brien. He felt the chaotic presence of all
the horse-men and fish-women that man's unnatural fancy has begotten. A
voice older than his first fathers seemed saying in his ear: "Keep out
of the monstrous garden where grows the tree with double fruit. Avoid
the evil garden where died the man with two heads." Yet, while these
shameful symbolic shapes passed across the ancient mirror of his Irish
soul, his Frenchified intellect was quite alert, and was watching the
odd priest as closely and incredulously as all the rest.
Father Brown had turned round at last, and stood against the window,
with his face in dense shadow; but even in that shadow they could see
it was pale as ashes. Nevertheless, he spoke quite sensibly, as if there
were no Gaelic souls on earth.
"Gentlemen," he said, "you did not find the strange body of Becker in
the garden. You did not find any strange body in the garden. In face
of Dr. Simon's rationalism, I still affirm that Becker was only partly
present. Look here!" (pointing to the black bulk of the mysterious
corpse) "you never saw that man in your lives. Did you ever see this
He rapidly rolled away the bald, yellow head of the unknown, and put in
its place the white-maned head beside it. And there, complete, unified,
unmistakable, lay Julius K. Brayne.
"The murderer," went on Brown quietly, "hacked off his enemy's head and
flung the sword far over the wall. But he was too clever to fling the
sword only. He flung the head over the wall also. Then he had only to
clap on another head to the corpse, and (as he insisted on a private
inquest) you all imagined a totally new man."
"Clap on another head!" said O'Brien staring. "What other head? Heads
don't grow on garden bushes, do they?"
"No," said Father Brown huskily, and looking at his boots; "there
is only one place where they grow. They grow in the basket of the
guillotine, beside which the chief of police, Aristide Valentin, was
standing not an hour before the murder. Oh, my friends, hear me a minute
more before you tear me in pieces. Valentin is an honest man, if being
mad for an arguable cause is honesty. But did you never see in that
cold, grey eye of his that he is mad! He would do anything, anything, to
break what he calls the superstition of the Cross. He has fought for
it and starved for it, and now he has murdered for it. Brayne's crazy
millions had hitherto been scattered among so many sects that they did
little to alter the balance of things. But Valentin heard a whisper that
Brayne, like so many scatter-brained sceptics, was drifting to us; and
that was quite a different thing. Brayne would pour supplies into the
impoverished and pugnacious Church of France; he would support six
Nationalist newspapers like The Guillotine. The battle was already
balanced on a point, and the fanatic took flame at the risk. He resolved
to destroy the millionaire, and he did it as one would expect the
greatest of detectives to commit his only crime. He abstracted the
severed head of Becker on some criminological excuse, and took it home
in his official box. He had that last argument with Brayne, that Lord
Galloway did not hear the end of; that failing, he led him out into the
sealed garden, talked about swordsmanship, used twigs and a sabre for
Ivan of the Scar sprang up. "You lunatic," he yelled; "you'll go to my
master now, if I take you by--"
"Why, I was going there," said Brown heavily; "I must ask him to
confess, and all that."
Driving the unhappy Brown before them like a hostage or sacrifice, they
rushed together into the sudden stillness of Valentin's study.
The great detective sat at his desk apparently too occupied to hear
their turbulent entrance. They paused a moment, and then something in
the look of that upright and elegant back made the doctor run forward
suddenly. A touch and a glance showed him that there was a small box of
pills at Valentin's elbow, and that Valentin was dead in his chair; and
on the blind face of the suicide was more than the pride of Cato.
The Queer Feet
If you meet a member of that select club, "The Twelve True Fishermen,"
entering the Vernon Hotel for the annual club dinner, you will observe,
as he takes off his overcoat, that his evening coat is green and not
black. If (supposing that you have the star-defying audacity to address
such a being) you ask him why, he will probably answer that he does it
to avoid being mistaken for a waiter. You will then retire crushed. But
you will leave behind you a mystery as yet unsolved and a tale worth
If (to pursue the same vein of improbable conjecture) you were to meet
a mild, hard-working little priest, named Father Brown, and were to ask
him what he thought was the most singular luck of his life, he would
probably reply that upon the whole his best stroke was at the Vernon
Hotel, where he had averted a crime and, perhaps, saved a soul, merely
by listening to a few footsteps in a passage. He is perhaps a little
proud of this wild and wonderful guess of his, and it is possible that
he might refer to it. But since it is immeasurably unlikely that you
will ever rise high enough in the social world to find "The Twelve
True Fishermen," or that you will ever sink low enough among slums and
criminals to find Father Brown, I fear you will never hear the story at
all unless you hear it from me.
The Vernon Hotel at which The Twelve True Fishermen held their annual
dinners was an institution such as can only exist in an oligarchical
society which has almost gone mad on good manners. It was that
topsy-turvy product--an "exclusive" commercial enterprise. That is, it
was a thing which paid not by attracting people, but actually by turning
people away. In the heart of a plutocracy tradesmen become cunning
enough to be more fastidious than their customers. They positively
create difficulties so that their wealthy and weary clients may spend
money and diplomacy in overcoming them. If there were a fashionable
hotel in London which no man could enter who was under six foot, society
would meekly make up parties of six-foot men to dine in it. If there
were an expensive restaurant which by a mere caprice of its proprietor
was only open on Thursday afternoon, it would be crowded on Thursday
afternoon. The Vernon Hotel stood, as if by accident, in the corner of a
square in Belgravia. It was a small hotel; and a very inconvenient
one. But its very inconveniences were considered as walls protecting a
particular class. One inconvenience, in particular, was held to be of
vital importance: the fact that practically only twenty-four people
could dine in the place at once. The only big dinner table was the
celebrated terrace table, which stood open to the air on a sort of
veranda overlooking one of the most exquisite old gardens in London.
Thus it happened that even the twenty-four seats at this table could
only be enjoyed in warm weather; and this making the enjoyment yet more
difficult made it yet more desired. The existing owner of the hotel was
a Jew named Lever; and he made nearly a million out of it, by making it
difficult to get into. Of course he combined with this limitation in the
scope of his enterprise the most careful polish in its performance.
The wines and cooking were really as good as any in Europe, and the
demeanour of the attendants exactly mirrored the fixed mood of the
English upper class. The proprietor knew all his waiters like the
fingers on his hand; there were only fifteen of them all told. It was
much easier to become a Member of Parliament than to become a waiter in
that hotel. Each waiter was trained in terrible silence and smoothness,
as if he were a gentleman's servant. And, indeed, there was generally at
least one waiter to every gentleman who dined.
The club of The Twelve True Fishermen would not have consented to dine
anywhere but in such a place, for it insisted on a luxurious privacy;
and would have been quite upset by the mere thought that any other club
was even dining in the same building. On the occasion of their annual
dinner the Fishermen were in the habit of exposing all their treasures,
as if they were in a private house, especially the celebrated set
of fish knives and forks which were, as it were, the insignia of the
society, each being exquisitely wrought in silver in the form of a fish,
and each loaded at the hilt with one large pearl. These were always
laid out for the fish course, and the fish course was always the most
magnificent in that magnificent repast. The society had a vast number
of ceremonies and observances, but it had no history and no object; that
was where it was so very aristocratic. You did not have to be anything
in order to be one of the Twelve Fishers; unless you were already a
certain sort of person, you never even heard of them. It had been in
existence twelve years. Its president was Mr. Audley. Its vice-president
was the Duke of Chester.
If I have in any degree conveyed the atmosphere of this appalling hotel,
the reader may feel a natural wonder as to how I came to know anything
about it, and may even speculate as to how so ordinary a person as my
friend Father Brown came to find himself in that golden galley. As far
as that is concerned, my story is simple, or even vulgar. There is in
the world a very aged rioter and demagogue who breaks into the most
refined retreats with the dreadful information that all men are
brothers, and wherever this leveller went on his pale horse it was
Father Brown's trade to follow. One of the waiters, an Italian, had
been struck down with a paralytic stroke that afternoon; and his Jewish
employer, marvelling mildly at such superstitions, had consented to send
for the nearest Popish priest. With what the waiter confessed to Father
Brown we are not concerned, for the excellent reason that that cleric
kept it to himself; but apparently it involved him in writing out a note
or statement for the conveying of some message or the righting of some
wrong. Father Brown, therefore, with a meek impudence which he would
have shown equally in Buckingham Palace, asked to be provided with a
room and writing materials. Mr. Lever was torn in two. He was a kind
man, and had also that bad imitation of kindness, the dislike of any
difficulty or scene. At the same time the presence of one unusual
stranger in his hotel that evening was like a speck of dirt on something
just cleaned. There was never any borderland or anteroom in the Vernon
Hotel, no people waiting in the hall, no customers coming in on chance.
There were fifteen waiters. There were twelve guests. It would be as
startling to find a new guest in the hotel that night as to find a
new brother taking breakfast or tea in one's own family. Moreover,
the priest's appearance was second-rate and his clothes muddy; a mere
glimpse of him afar off might precipitate a crisis in the club. Mr.
Lever at last hit on a plan to cover, since he might not obliterate, the
disgrace. When you enter (as you never will) the Vernon Hotel, you pass
down a short passage decorated with a few dingy but important pictures,
and come to the main vestibule and lounge which opens on your right
into passages leading to the public rooms, and on your left to a similar
passage pointing to the kitchens and offices of the hotel. Immediately
on your left hand is the corner of a glass office, which abuts upon
the lounge--a house within a house, so to speak, like the old hotel bar
which probably once occupied its place.
In this office sat the representative of the proprietor (nobody in this
place ever appeared in person if he could help it), and just beyond the
office, on the way to the servants' quarters, was the gentlemen's cloak
room, the last boundary of the gentlemen's domain. But between the
office and the cloak room was a small private room without other outlet,
sometimes used by the proprietor for delicate and important matters,
such as lending a duke a thousand pounds or declining to lend him
sixpence. It is a mark of the magnificent tolerance of Mr. Lever that
he permitted this holy place to be for about half an hour profaned by a
mere priest, scribbling away on a piece of paper. The story which Father
Brown was writing down was very likely a much better story than this
one, only it will never be known. I can merely state that it was very
nearly as long, and that the last two or three paragraphs of it were the
least exciting and absorbing.
For it was by the time that he had reached these that the priest began a
little to allow his thoughts to wander and his animal senses, which were
commonly keen, to awaken. The time of darkness and dinner was drawing
on; his own forgotten little room was without a light, and perhaps the
gathering gloom, as occasionally happens, sharpened the sense of sound.
As Father Brown wrote the last and least essential part of his document,
he caught himself writing to the rhythm of a recurrent noise outside,
just as one sometimes thinks to the tune of a railway train. When he
became conscious of the thing he found what it was: only the ordinary
patter of feet passing the door, which in an hotel was no very unlikely
matter. Nevertheless, he stared at the darkened ceiling, and listened to
the sound. After he had listened for a few seconds dreamily, he got to
his feet and listened intently, with his head a little on one side.
Then he sat down again and buried his brow in his hands, now not merely
listening, but listening and thinking also.
The footsteps outside at any given moment were such as one might hear in
any hotel; and yet, taken as a whole, there was something very strange
about them. There were no other footsteps. It was always a very silent
house, for the few familiar guests went at once to their own apartments,
and the well-trained waiters were told to be almost invisible until
they were wanted. One could not conceive any place where there was less
reason to apprehend anything irregular. But these footsteps were so
odd that one could not decide to call them regular or irregular. Father
Brown followed them with his finger on the edge of the table, like a man
trying to learn a tune on the piano.
First, there came a long rush of rapid little steps, such as a light man
might make in winning a walking race. At a certain point they stopped
and changed to a sort of slow, swinging stamp, numbering not a quarter
of the steps, but occupying about the same time. The moment the last
echoing stamp had died away would come again the run or ripple of light,
hurrying feet, and then again the thud of the heavier walking. It was
certainly the same pair of boots, partly because (as has been said)
there were no other boots about, and partly because they had a small
but unmistakable creak in them. Father Brown had the kind of head that
cannot help asking questions; and on this apparently trivial question
his head almost split. He had seen men run in order to jump. He had seen
men run in order to slide. But why on earth should a man run in order
to walk? Or, again, why should he walk in order to run? Yet no other
description would cover the antics of this invisible pair of legs. The
man was either walking very fast down one-half of the corridor in order
to walk very slow down the other half; or he was walking very slow
at one end to have the rapture of walking fast at the other. Neither
suggestion seemed to make much sense. His brain was growing darker and
darker, like his room.
Yet, as he began to think steadily, the very blackness of his cell
seemed to make his thoughts more vivid; he began to see as in a kind of
vision the fantastic feet capering along the corridor in unnatural or
symbolic attitudes. Was it a heathen religious dance? Or some entirely
new kind of scientific exercise? Father Brown began to ask himself with
more exactness what the steps suggested. Taking the slow step first: it
certainly was not the step of the proprietor. Men of his type walk
with a rapid waddle, or they sit still. It could not be any servant or
messenger waiting for directions. It did not sound like it. The poorer
orders (in an oligarchy) sometimes lurch about when they are slightly
drunk, but generally, and especially in such gorgeous scenes, they stand
or sit in constrained attitudes. No; that heavy yet springy step, with
a kind of careless emphasis, not specially noisy, yet not caring what
noise it made, belonged to only one of the animals of this earth. It was
a gentleman of western Europe, and probably one who had never worked for
Just as he came to this solid certainty, the step changed to the quicker
one, and ran past the door as feverishly as a rat. The listener remarked
that though this step was much swifter it was also much more noiseless,
almost as if the man were walking on tiptoe. Yet it was not associated
in his mind with secrecy, but with something else--something that he
could not remember. He was maddened by one of those half-memories that
make a man feel half-witted. Surely he had heard that strange, swift
walking somewhere. Suddenly he sprang to his feet with a new idea in
his head, and walked to the door. His room had no direct outlet on the
passage, but let on one side into the glass office, and on the other
into the cloak room beyond. He tried the door into the office, and
found it locked. Then he looked at the window, now a square pane full of
purple cloud cleft by livid sunset, and for an instant he smelt evil as
a dog smells rats.
The rational part of him (whether the wiser or not) regained its
supremacy. He remembered that the proprietor had told him that he should
lock the door, and would come later to release him. He told himself that
twenty things he had not thought of might explain the eccentric sounds
outside; he reminded himself that there was just enough light left to
finish his own proper work. Bringing his paper to the window so as to
catch the last stormy evening light, he resolutely plunged once more
into the almost completed record. He had written for about twenty
minutes, bending closer and closer to his paper in the lessening light;
then suddenly he sat upright. He had heard the strange feet once more.
This time they had a third oddity. Previously the unknown man had
walked, with levity indeed and lightning quickness, but he had walked.
This time he ran. One could hear the swift, soft, bounding steps coming
along the corridor, like the pads of a fleeing and leaping panther.
Whoever was coming was a very strong, active man, in still yet tearing
excitement. Yet, when the sound had swept up to the office like a sort
of whispering whirlwind, it suddenly changed again to the old slow,
Father Brown flung down his paper, and, knowing the office door to
be locked, went at once into the cloak room on the other side. The
attendant of this place was temporarily absent, probably because the
only guests were at dinner and his office was a sinecure. After groping
through a grey forest of overcoats, he found that the dim cloak room
opened on the lighted corridor in the form of a sort of counter or
half-door, like most of the counters across which we have all handed
umbrellas and received tickets. There was a light immediately above
the semicircular arch of this opening. It threw little illumination on
Father Brown himself, who seemed a mere dark outline against the dim
sunset window behind him. But it threw an almost theatrical light on the
man who stood outside the cloak room in the corridor.
He was an elegant man in very plain evening dress; tall, but with an air
of not taking up much room; one felt that he could have slid along like
a shadow where many smaller men would have been obvious and obstructive.
His face, now flung back in the lamplight, was swarthy and vivacious,
the face of a foreigner. His figure was good, his manners good humoured
and confident; a critic could only say that his black coat was a shade
below his figure and manners, and even bulged and bagged in an odd
way. The moment he caught sight of Brown's black silhouette against the
sunset, he tossed down a scrap of paper with a number and called out
with amiable authority: "I want my hat and coat, please; I find I have
to go away at once."
Father Brown took the paper without a word, and obediently went to look
for the coat; it was not the first menial work he had done in his
life. He brought it and laid it on the counter; meanwhile, the strange
gentleman who had been feeling in his waistcoat pocket, said laughing:
"I haven't got any silver; you can keep this." And he threw down half a
sovereign, and caught up his coat.
Father Brown's figure remained quite dark and still; but in that instant
he had lost his head. His head was always most valuable when he had lost
it. In such moments he put two and two together and made four million.
Often the Catholic Church (which is wedded to common sense) did not
approve of it. Often he did not approve of it himself. But it was real
inspiration--important at rare crises--when whosoever shall lose his
head the same shall save it.
"I think, sir," he said civilly, "that you have some silver in your
The tall gentleman stared. "Hang it," he cried, "if I choose to give you
gold, why should you complain?"
"Because silver is sometimes more valuable than gold," said the priest
mildly; "that is, in large quantities."
The stranger looked at him curiously. Then he looked still more
curiously up the passage towards the main entrance. Then he looked back
at Brown again, and then he looked very carefully at the window beyond
Brown's head, still coloured with the after-glow of the storm. Then he
seemed to make up his mind. He put one hand on the counter, vaulted
over as easily as an acrobat and towered above the priest, putting one
tremendous hand upon his collar.
"Stand still," he said, in a hacking whisper. "I don't want to threaten
"I do want to threaten you," said Father Brown, in a voice like a
rolling drum, "I want to threaten you with the worm that dieth not, and
the fire that is not quenched."
"You're a rum sort of cloak-room clerk," said the other.
"I am a priest, Monsieur Flambeau," said Brown, "and I am ready to hear
The other stood gasping for a few moments, and then staggered back into
The first two courses of the dinner of The Twelve True Fishermen had
proceeded with placid success. I do not possess a copy of the menu; and
if I did it would not convey anything to anybody. It was written in
a sort of super-French employed by cooks, but quite unintelligible to
Frenchmen. There was a tradition in the club that the hors d'oeuvres
should be various and manifold to the point of madness. They were taken
seriously because they were avowedly useless extras, like the whole
dinner and the whole club. There was also a tradition that the soup
course should be light and unpretending--a sort of simple and austere
vigil for the feast of fish that was to come. The talk was that strange,
slight talk which governs the British Empire, which governs it in
secret, and yet would scarcely enlighten an ordinary Englishman even if
he could overhear it. Cabinet ministers on both sides were alluded to
by their Christian names with a sort of bored benignity. The Radical
Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom the whole Tory party was supposed to
be cursing for his extortions, was praised for his minor poetry, or his
saddle in the hunting field. The Tory leader, whom all Liberals
were supposed to hate as a tyrant, was discussed and, on the whole,
praised--as a Liberal. It seemed somehow that politicians were very
important. And yet, anything seemed important about them except their
politics. Mr. Audley, the chairman, was an amiable, elderly man who
still wore Gladstone collars; he was a kind of symbol of all that
phantasmal and yet fixed society. He had never done anything--not even
anything wrong. He was not fast; he was not even particularly rich.
He was simply in the thing; and there was an end of it. No party could
ignore him, and if he had wished to be in the Cabinet he certainly would
have been put there. The Duke of Chester, the vice-president, was a
young and rising politician. That is to say, he was a pleasant youth,
with flat, fair hair and a freckled face, with moderate intelligence and
enormous estates. In public his appearances were always successful and
his principle was simple enough. When he thought of a joke he made it,
and was called brilliant. When he could not think of a joke he said that
this was no time for trifling, and was called able. In private, in a
club of his own class, he was simply quite pleasantly frank and silly,
like a schoolboy. Mr. Audley, never having been in politics, treated
them a little more seriously. Sometimes he even embarrassed the company
by phrases suggesting that there was some difference between a Liberal
and a Conservative. He himself was a Conservative, even in private life.
He had a roll of grey hair over the back of his collar, like certain
old-fashioned statesmen, and seen from behind he looked like the man the
empire wants. Seen from the front he looked like a mild, self-indulgent
bachelor, with rooms in the Albany--which he was.
As has been remarked, there were twenty-four seats at the terrace table,
and only twelve members of the club. Thus they could occupy the terrace
in the most luxurious style of all, being ranged along the inner side of
the table, with no one opposite, commanding an uninterrupted view of
the garden, the colours of which were still vivid, though evening was
closing in somewhat luridly for the time of year. The chairman sat in
the centre of the line, and the vice-president at the right-hand end
of it. When the twelve guests first trooped into their seats it was the
custom (for some unknown reason) for all the fifteen waiters to stand
lining the wall like troops presenting arms to the king, while the fat
proprietor stood and bowed to the club with radiant surprise, as if he
had never heard of them before. But before the first chink of knife and
fork this army of retainers had vanished, only the one or two required
to collect and distribute the plates darting about in deathly silence.
Mr. Lever, the proprietor, of course had disappeared in convulsions of
courtesy long before. It would be exaggerative, indeed irreverent,
to say that he ever positively appeared again. But when the important
course, the fish course, was being brought on, there was--how shall I
put it?--a vivid shadow, a projection of his personality, which told
that he was hovering near. The sacred fish course consisted (to the eyes
of the vulgar) in a sort of monstrous pudding, about the size and shape
of a wedding cake, in which some considerable number of interesting
fishes had finally lost the shapes which God had given to them. The
Twelve True Fishermen took up their celebrated fish knives and fish
forks, and approached it as gravely as if every inch of the pudding cost
as much as the silver fork it was eaten with. So it did, for all I know.
This course was dealt with in eager and devouring silence; and it was
only when his plate was nearly empty that the young duke made the ritual
remark: "They can't do this anywhere but here."
"Nowhere," said Mr. Audley, in a deep bass voice, turning to the speaker
and nodding his venerable head a number of times. "Nowhere, assuredly,
except here. It was represented to me that at the Cafe Anglais--"
Here he was interrupted and even agitated for a moment by the removal
of his plate, but he recaptured the valuable thread of his thoughts. "It
was represented to me that the same could be done at the Cafe Anglais.
Nothing like it, sir," he said, shaking his head ruthlessly, like a
hanging judge. "Nothing like it."
"Overrated place," said a certain Colonel Pound, speaking (by the look
of him) for the first time for some months.
"Oh, I don't know," said the Duke of Chester, who was an optimist, "it's
jolly good for some things. You can't beat it at--"
A waiter came swiftly along the room, and then stopped dead. His
stoppage was as silent as his tread; but all those vague and kindly
gentlemen were so used to the utter smoothness of the unseen machinery
which surrounded and supported their lives, that a waiter doing anything
unexpected was a start and a jar. They felt as you and I would feel if
the inanimate world disobeyed--if a chair ran away from us.
The waiter stood staring a few seconds, while there deepened on every
face at table a strange shame which is wholly the product of our time.
It is the combination of modern humanitarianism with the horrible
modern abyss between the souls of the rich and poor. A genuine historic
aristocrat would have thrown things at the waiter, beginning with empty
bottles, and very probably ending with money. A genuine democrat would
have asked him, with comrade-like clearness of speech, what the devil he
was doing. But these modern plutocrats could not bear a poor man near
to them, either as a slave or as a friend. That something had gone wrong
with the servants was merely a dull, hot embarrassment. They did not
want to be brutal, and they dreaded the need to be benevolent. They
wanted the thing, whatever it was, to be over. It was over. The waiter,
after standing for some seconds rigid, like a cataleptic, turned round
and ran madly out of the room.
When he reappeared in the room, or rather in the doorway, it was in
company with another waiter, with whom he whispered and gesticulated
with southern fierceness. Then the first waiter went away, leaving the
second waiter, and reappeared with a third waiter. By the time a fourth
waiter had joined this hurried synod, Mr. Audley felt it necessary to
break the silence in the interests of Tact. He used a very loud cough,
instead of a presidential hammer, and said: "Splendid work young
Moocher's doing in Burmah. Now, no other nation in the world could
A fifth waiter had sped towards him like an arrow, and was whispering in
his ear: "So sorry. Important! Might the proprietor speak to you?"
The chairman turned in disorder, and with a dazed stare saw Mr. Lever
coming towards them with his lumbering quickness. The gait of the good
proprietor was indeed his usual gait, but his face was by no means
usual. Generally it was a genial copper-brown; now it was a sickly
"You will pardon me, Mr. Audley," he said, with asthmatic
breathlessness. "I have great apprehensions. Your fish-plates, they are
cleared away with the knife and fork on them!"
"Well, I hope so," said the chairman, with some warmth.
"You see him?" panted the excited hotel keeper; "you see the waiter who
took them away? You know him?"
"Know the waiter?" answered Mr. Audley indignantly. "Certainly not!"
Mr. Lever opened his hands with a gesture of agony. "I never send him,"
he said. "I know not when or why he come. I send my waiter to take away
the plates, and he find them already away."
Mr. Audley still looked rather too bewildered to be really the man the
empire wants; none of the company could say anything except the man of
wood--Colonel Pound--who seemed galvanised into an unnatural life. He
rose rigidly from his chair, leaving all the rest sitting, screwed his
eyeglass into his eye, and spoke in a raucous undertone as if he had
half-forgotten how to speak. "Do you mean," he said, "that somebody has
stolen our silver fish service?"
The proprietor repeated the open-handed gesture with even greater
helplessness and in a flash all the men at the table were on their feet.
"Are all your waiters here?" demanded the colonel, in his low, harsh
"Yes; they're all here. I noticed it myself," cried the young duke,
pushing his boyish face into the inmost ring. "Always count 'em as I
come in; they look so queer standing up against the wall."
"But surely one cannot exactly remember," began Mr. Audley, with heavy
"I remember exactly, I tell you," cried the duke excitedly. "There never
have been more than fifteen waiters at this place, and there were no
more than fifteen tonight, I'll swear; no more and no less."
The proprietor turned upon him, quaking in a kind of palsy of surprise.
"You say--you say," he stammered, "that you see all my fifteen waiters?"
"As usual," assented the duke. "What is the matter with that!"
"Nothing," said Lever, with a deepening accent, "only you did not. For
one of zem is dead upstairs."
There was a shocking stillness for an instant in that room. It may be
(so supernatural is the word death) that each of those idle men looked
for a second at his soul, and saw it as a small dried pea. One of
them--the duke, I think--even said with the idiotic kindness of wealth:
"Is there anything we can do?"
"He has had a priest," said the Jew, not untouched.
Then, as to the clang of doom, they awoke to their own position. For a
few weird seconds they had really felt as if the fifteenth waiter might
be the ghost of the dead man upstairs. They had been dumb under that
oppression, for ghosts were to them an embarrassment, like beggars. But
the remembrance of the silver broke the spell of the miraculous; broke
it abruptly and with a brutal reaction. The colonel flung over his chair
and strode to the door. "If there was a fifteenth man here, friends," he
said, "that fifteenth fellow was a thief. Down at once to the front
and back doors and secure everything; then we'll talk. The twenty-four
pearls of the club are worth recovering."
Mr. Audley seemed at first to hesitate about whether it was gentlemanly
to be in such a hurry about anything; but, seeing the duke dash down the
stairs with youthful energy, he followed with a more mature motion.
At the same instant a sixth waiter ran into the room, and declared that
he had found the pile of fish plates on a sideboard, with no trace of
The crowd of diners and attendants that tumbled helter-skelter down the
passages divided into two groups. Most of the Fishermen followed the
proprietor to the front room to demand news of any exit. Colonel Pound,
with the chairman, the vice-president, and one or two others darted down
the corridor leading to the servants' quarters, as the more likely line
of escape. As they did so they passed the dim alcove or cavern of
the cloak room, and saw a short, black-coated figure, presumably an
attendant, standing a little way back in the shadow of it.
"Hallo, there!" called out the duke. "Have you seen anyone pass?"
The short figure did not answer the question directly, but merely said:
"Perhaps I have got what you are looking for, gentlemen."
They paused, wavering and wondering, while he quietly went to the back
of the cloak room, and came back with both hands full of shining silver,
which he laid out on the counter as calmly as a salesman. It took the
form of a dozen quaintly shaped forks and knives.
"You--you--" began the colonel, quite thrown off his balance at last.
Then he peered into the dim little room and saw two things: first, that
the short, black-clad man was dressed like a clergyman; and, second,
that the window of the room behind him was burst, as if someone had
passed violently through. "Valuable things to deposit in a cloak room,
aren't they?" remarked the clergyman, with cheerful composure.
"Did--did you steal those things?" stammered Mr. Audley, with staring
"If I did," said the cleric pleasantly, "at least I am bringing them
"But you didn't," said Colonel Pound, still staring at the broken
"To make a clean breast of it, I didn't," said the other, with some
humour. And he seated himself quite gravely on a stool. "But you know
who did," said the, colonel.
"I don't know his real name," said the priest placidly, "but I know
something of his fighting weight, and a great deal about his spiritual
difficulties. I formed the physical estimate when he was trying to
throttle me, and the moral estimate when he repented."
"Oh, I say--repented!" cried young Chester, with a sort of crow of
Father Brown got to his feet, putting his hands behind him. "Odd, isn't
it," he said, "that a thief and a vagabond should repent, when so many
who are rich and secure remain hard and frivolous, and without fruit for
God or man? But there, if you will excuse me, you trespass a little upon
my province. If you doubt the penitence as a practical fact, there are
your knives and forks. You are The Twelve True Fishers, and there are
all your silver fish. But He has made me a fisher of men."
"Did you catch this man?" asked the colonel, frowning.
Father Brown looked him full in his frowning face. "Yes," he said, "I
caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long
enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring
him back with a twitch upon the thread."
There was a long silence. All the other men present drifted away
to carry the recovered silver to their comrades, or to consult the
proprietor about the queer condition of affairs. But the grim-faced
colonel still sat sideways on the counter, swinging his long, lank legs
and biting his dark moustache.
At last he said quietly to the priest: "He must have been a clever
fellow, but I think I know a cleverer."
"He was a clever fellow," answered the other, "but I am not quite sure
of what other you mean."
"I mean you," said the colonel, with a short laugh. "I don't want to get
the fellow jailed; make yourself easy about that. But I'd give a good
many silver forks to know exactly how you fell into this affair, and how
you got the stuff out of him. I reckon you're the most up-to-date devil
of the present company."
Father Brown seemed rather to like the saturnine candour of the soldier.
"Well," he said, smiling, "I mustn't tell you anything of the man's
identity, or his own story, of course; but there's no particular reason
why I shouldn't tell you of the mere outside facts which I found out for
He hopped over the barrier with unexpected activity, and sat beside
Colonel Pound, kicking his short legs like a little boy on a gate. He
began to tell the story as easily as if he were telling it to an old
friend by a Christmas fire.
"You see, colonel," he said, "I was shut up in that small room there
doing some writing, when I heard a pair of feet in this passage doing a
dance that was as queer as the dance of death. First came quick, funny
little steps, like a man walking on tiptoe for a wager; then came slow,
careless, creaking steps, as of a big man walking about with a cigar.
But they were both made by the same feet, I swear, and they came in
rotation; first the run and then the walk, and then the run again. I
wondered at first idly and then wildly why a man should act these two
parts at once. One walk I knew; it was just like yours, colonel. It
was the walk of a well-fed gentleman waiting for something, who strolls
about rather because he is physically alert than because he is mentally
impatient. I knew that I knew the other walk, too, but I could not
remember what it was. What wild creature had I met on my travels that
tore along on tiptoe in that extraordinary style? Then I heard a clink
of plates somewhere; and the answer stood up as plain as St. Peter's. It
was the walk of a waiter--that walk with the body slanted forward, the
eyes looking down, the ball of the toe spurning away the ground, the
coat tails and napkin flying. Then I thought for a minute and a half
more. And I believe I saw the manner of the crime, as clearly as if I
were going to commit it."
Colonel Pound looked at him keenly, but the speaker's mild grey eyes
were fixed upon the ceiling with almost empty wistfulness.
"A crime," he said slowly, "is like any other work of art. Don't look
surprised; crimes are by no means the only works of art that come from
an infernal workshop. But every work of art, divine or diabolic, has
one indispensable mark--I mean, that the centre of it is simple, however
much the fulfilment may be complicated. Thus, in Hamlet, let us say,
the grotesqueness of the grave-digger, the flowers of the mad girl, the
fantastic finery of Osric, the pallor of the ghost and the grin of
the skull are all oddities in a sort of tangled wreath round one plain
tragic figure of a man in black. Well, this also," he said, getting
slowly down from his seat with a smile, "this also is the plain tragedy
of a man in black. Yes," he went on, seeing the colonel look up in some
wonder, "the whole of this tale turns on a black coat. In this, as in
Hamlet, there are the rococo excrescences--yourselves, let us say. There
is the dead waiter, who was there when he could not be there. There is
the invisible hand that swept your table clear of silver and melted
into air. But every clever crime is founded ultimately on some one quite
simple fact--some fact that is not itself mysterious. The mystification
comes in covering it up, in leading men's thoughts away from it. This
large and subtle and (in the ordinary course) most profitable crime, was
built on the plain fact that a gentleman's evening dress is the same as
a waiter's. All the rest was acting, and thundering good acting, too."
"Still," said the colonel, getting up and frowning at his boots, "I am
not sure that I understand."
"Colonel," said Father Brown, "I tell you that this archangel of
impudence who stole your forks walked up and down this passage twenty
times in the blaze of all the lamps, in the glare of all the eyes. He
did not go and hide in dim corners where suspicion might have searched
for him. He kept constantly on the move in the lighted corridors, and
everywhere that he went he seemed to be there by right. Don't ask me
what he was like; you have seen him yourself six or seven times tonight.
You were waiting with all the other grand people in the reception room
at the end of the passage there, with the terrace just beyond. Whenever
he came among you gentlemen, he came in the lightning style of a waiter,
with bent head, flapping napkin and flying feet. He shot out on to the
terrace, did something to the table cloth, and shot back again towards
the office and the waiters' quarters. By the time he had come under the
eye of the office clerk and the waiters he had become another man in
every inch of his body, in every instinctive gesture. He strolled among
the servants with the absent-minded insolence which they have all seen
in their patrons. It was no new thing to them that a swell from the
dinner party should pace all parts of the house like an animal at the
Zoo; they know that nothing marks the Smart Set more than a habit of
walking where one chooses. When he was magnificently weary of walking
down that particular passage he would wheel round and pace back past
the office; in the shadow of the arch just beyond he was altered as by
a blast of magic, and went hurrying forward again among the Twelve
Fishermen, an obsequious attendant. Why should the gentlemen look at
a chance waiter? Why should the waiters suspect a first-rate walking
gentleman? Once or twice he played the coolest tricks. In the
proprietor's private quarters he called out breezily for a syphon of
soda water, saying he was thirsty. He said genially that he would carry
it himself, and he did; he carried it quickly and correctly through the
thick of you, a waiter with an obvious errand. Of course, it could not
have been kept up long, but it only had to be kept up till the end of
the fish course.
"His worst moment was when the waiters stood in a row; but even then he
contrived to lean against the wall just round the corner in such a way
that for that important instant the waiters thought him a gentleman,
while the gentlemen thought him a waiter. The rest went like winking. If
any waiter caught him away from the table, that waiter caught a languid
aristocrat. He had only to time himself two minutes before the fish was
cleared, become a swift servant, and clear it himself. He put the plates
down on a sideboard, stuffed the silver in his breast pocket, giving it
a bulgy look, and ran like a hare (I heard him coming) till he came to
the cloak room. There he had only to be a plutocrat again--a plutocrat
called away suddenly on business. He had only to give his ticket to
the cloak-room attendant, and go out again elegantly as he had come in.
Only--only I happened to be the cloak-room attendant."
"What did you do to him?" cried the colonel, with unusual intensity.
"What did he tell you?"
"I beg your pardon," said the priest immovably, "that is where the story
"And the interesting story begins," muttered Pound. "I think I
understand his professional trick. But I don't seem to have got hold of
"I must be going," said Father Brown.
They walked together along the passage to the entrance hall, where they
saw the fresh, freckled face of the Duke of Chester, who was bounding
buoyantly along towards them.
"Come along, Pound," he cried breathlessly. "I've been looking for you
everywhere. The dinner's going again in spanking style, and old Audley
has got to make a speech in honour of the forks being saved. We want to
start some new ceremony, don't you know, to commemorate the occasion. I
say, you really got the goods back, what do you suggest?"
"Why," said the colonel, eyeing him with a certain sardonic approval, "I
should suggest that henceforward we wear green coats, instead of
black. One never knows what mistakes may arise when one looks so like a
"Oh, hang it all!" said the young man, "a gentleman never looks like a
"Nor a waiter like a gentleman, I suppose," said Colonel Pound, with the
same lowering laughter on his face. "Reverend sir, your friend must have
been very smart to act the gentleman."
Father Brown buttoned up his commonplace overcoat to the neck, for the
night was stormy, and took his commonplace umbrella from the stand.
"Yes," he said; "it must be very hard work to be a gentleman; but, do
you know, I have sometimes thought that it may be almost as laborious to
be a waiter."
And saying "Good evening," he pushed open the heavy doors of that palace
of pleasures. The golden gates closed behind him, and he went at a brisk
walk through the damp, dark streets in search of a penny omnibus.
The Flying Stars
"The most beautiful crime I ever committed," Flambeau would say in his
highly moral old age, "was also, by a singular coincidence, my last.
It was committed at Christmas. As an artist I had always attempted to
provide crimes suitable to the special season or landscapes in which I
found myself, choosing this or that terrace or garden for a catastrophe,
as if for a statuary group. Thus squires should be swindled in long
rooms panelled with oak; while Jews, on the other hand, should rather
find themselves unexpectedly penniless among the lights and screens of
the Cafe Riche. Thus, in England, if I wished to relieve a dean of his
riches (which is not so easy as you might suppose), I wished to frame
him, if I make myself clear, in the green lawns and grey towers of some
cathedral town. Similarly, in France, when I had got money out of a rich
and wicked peasant (which is almost impossible), it gratified me to get
his indignant head relieved against a grey line of clipped poplars,
and those solemn plains of Gaul over which broods the mighty spirit of
"Well, my last crime was a Christmas crime, a cheery, cosy, English
middle-class crime; a crime of Charles Dickens. I did it in a good old
middle-class house near Putney, a house with a crescent of carriage
drive, a house with a stable by the side of it, a house with the name
on the two outer gates, a house with a monkey tree. Enough, you know the
species. I really think my imitation of Dickens's style was dexterous
and literary. It seems almost a pity I repented the same evening."
Flambeau would then proceed to tell the story from the inside; and
even from the inside it was odd. Seen from the outside it was perfectly
incomprehensible, and it is from the outside that the stranger must
study it. From this standpoint the drama may be said to have begun when
the front doors of the house with the stable opened on the garden with
the monkey tree, and a young girl came out with bread to feed the birds
on the afternoon of Boxing Day. She had a pretty face, with brave brown
eyes; but her figure was beyond conjecture, for she was so wrapped up in
brown furs that it was hard to say which was hair and which was fur. But
for the attractive face she might have been a small toddling bear.
The winter afternoon was reddening towards evening, and already a ruby
light was rolled over the bloomless beds, filling them, as it were, with
the ghosts of the dead roses. On one side of the house stood the stable,
on the other an alley or cloister of laurels led to the larger garden
behind. The young lady, having scattered bread for the birds (for
the fourth or fifth time that day, because the dog ate it), passed
unobtrusively down the lane of laurels and into a glimmering plantation
of evergreens behind. Here she gave an exclamation of wonder, real or
ritual, and looking up at the high garden wall above her, beheld it
fantastically bestridden by a somewhat fantastic figure.
"Oh, don't jump, Mr. Crook," she called out in some alarm; "it's much
The individual riding the party wall like an aerial horse was a tall,
angular young man, with dark hair sticking up like a hair brush,
intelligent and even distinguished lineaments, but a sallow and almost
alien complexion. This showed the more plainly because he wore an
aggressive red tie, the only part of his costume of which he seemed to
take any care. Perhaps it was a symbol. He took no notice of the girl's
alarmed adjuration, but leapt like a grasshopper to the ground beside
her, where he might very well have broken his legs.
"I think I was meant to be a burglar," he said placidly, "and I have no
doubt I should have been if I hadn't happened to be born in that nice
house next door. I can't see any harm in it, anyhow."
"How can you say such things!" she remonstrated.
"Well," said the young man, "if you're born on the wrong side of the
wall, I can't see that it's wrong to climb over it."
"I never know what you will say or do next," she said.
"I don't often know myself," replied Mr. Crook; "but then I am on the
right side of the wall now."
"And which is the right side of the wall?" asked the young lady,
"Whichever side you are on," said the young man named Crook.
As they went together through the laurels towards the front garden
a motor horn sounded thrice, coming nearer and nearer, and a car of
splendid speed, great elegance, and a pale green colour swept up to the
front doors like a bird and stood throbbing.
"Hullo, hullo!" said the young man with the red tie, "here's somebody
born on the right side, anyhow. I didn't know, Miss Adams, that your
Santa Claus was so modern as this."
"Oh, that's my godfather, Sir Leopold Fischer. He always comes on Boxing
Then, after an innocent pause, which unconsciously betrayed some lack of
enthusiasm, Ruby Adams added:
"He is very kind."
John Crook, journalist, had heard of that eminent City magnate; and
it was not his fault if the City magnate had not heard of him; for in
certain articles in The Clarion or The New Age Sir Leopold had been
dealt with austerely. But he said nothing and grimly watched the
unloading of the motor-car, which was rather a long process. A large,
neat chauffeur in green got out from the front, and a small, neat
manservant in grey got out from the back, and between them they
deposited Sir Leopold on the doorstep and began to unpack him, like some
very carefully protected parcel. Rugs enough to stock a bazaar, furs
of all the beasts of the forest, and scarves of all the colours of
the rainbow were unwrapped one by one, till they revealed something
resembling the human form; the form of a friendly, but foreign-looking
old gentleman, with a grey goat-like beard and a beaming smile, who
rubbed his big fur gloves together.
Long before this revelation was complete the two big doors of the porch
had opened in the middle, and Colonel Adams (father of the furry young
lady) had come out himself to invite his eminent guest inside. He was a
tall, sunburnt, and very silent man, who wore a red smoking-cap like a
fez, making him look like one of the English Sirdars or Pashas in Egypt.
With him was his brother-in-law, lately come from Canada, a big and
rather boisterous young gentleman-farmer, with a yellow beard, by name
James Blount. With him also was the more insignificant figure of the
priest from the neighbouring Roman Church; for the colonel's late wife
had been a Catholic, and the children, as is common in such cases, had
been trained to follow her. Everything seemed undistinguished about
the priest, even down to his name, which was Brown; yet the colonel had
always found something companionable about him, and frequently asked him
to such family gatherings.
In the large entrance hall of the house there was ample room even for
Sir Leopold and the removal of his wraps. Porch and vestibule, indeed,
were unduly large in proportion to the house, and formed, as it were, a
big room with the front door at one end, and the bottom of the staircase
at the other. In front of the large hall fire, over which hung the
colonel's sword, the process was completed and the company, including
the saturnine Crook, presented to Sir Leopold Fischer. That venerable
financier, however, still seemed struggling with portions of his
well-lined attire, and at length produced from a very interior tail-coat
pocket, a black oval case which he radiantly explained to be his
Christmas present for his god-daughter. With an unaffected vain-glory
that had something disarming about it he held out the case before them
all; it flew open at a touch and half-blinded them. It was just as if a
crystal fountain had spurted in their eyes. In a nest of orange velvet
lay like three eggs, three white and vivid diamonds that seemed to set
the very air on fire all round them. Fischer stood beaming benevolently
and drinking deep of the astonishment and ecstasy of the girl, the grim
admiration and gruff thanks of the colonel, the wonder of the whole
"I'll put 'em back now, my dear," said Fischer, returning the case to
the tails of his coat. "I had to be careful of 'em coming down. They're
the three great African diamonds called 'The Flying Stars,' because
they've been stolen so often. All the big criminals are on the track;
but even the rough men about in the streets and hotels could hardly have
kept their hands off them. I might have lost them on the road here. It
was quite possible."
"Quite natural, I should say," growled the man in the red tie. "I
shouldn't blame 'em if they had taken 'em. When they ask for bread, and
you don't even give them a stone, I think they might take the stone for
"I won't have you talking like that," cried the girl, who was in a
curious glow. "You've only talked like that since you became a horrid
what's-his-name. You know what I mean. What do you call a man who wants
to embrace the chimney-sweep?"
"A saint," said Father Brown.
"I think," said Sir Leopold, with a supercilious smile, "that Ruby means
"A radical does not mean a man who lives on radishes," remarked Crook,
with some impatience; "and a Conservative does not mean a man who
preserves jam. Neither, I assure you, does a Socialist mean a man who
desires a social evening with the chimney-sweep. A Socialist means a
man who wants all the chimneys swept and all the chimney-sweeps paid for
"But who won't allow you," put in the priest in a low voice, "to own
your own soot."
Crook looked at him with an eye of interest and even respect. "Does one
want to own soot?" he asked.
"One might," answered Brown, with speculation in his eye. "I've heard
that gardeners use it. And I once made six children happy at Christmas
when the conjuror didn't come, entirely with soot--applied externally."
"Oh, splendid," cried Ruby. "Oh, I wish you'd do it to this company."
The boisterous Canadian, Mr. Blount, was lifting his loud voice in
applause, and the astonished financier his (in some considerable
deprecation), when a knock sounded at the double front doors. The priest
opened them, and they showed again the front garden of evergreens,
monkey-tree and all, now gathering gloom against a gorgeous violet
sunset. The scene thus framed was so coloured and quaint, like a back
scene in a play, that they forgot a moment the insignificant figure
standing in the door. He was dusty-looking and in a frayed coat,
evidently a common messenger. "Any of you gentlemen Mr. Blount?" he
asked, and held forward a letter doubtfully. Mr. Blount started, and
stopped in his shout of assent. Ripping up the envelope with evident
astonishment he read it; his face clouded a little, and then cleared,
and he turned to his brother-in-law and host.
"I'm sick at being such a nuisance, colonel," he said, with the cheery
colonial conventions; "but would it upset you if an old acquaintance
called on me here tonight on business? In point of fact it's Florian,
that famous French acrobat and comic actor; I knew him years ago out
West (he was a French-Canadian by birth), and he seems to have business
for me, though I hardly guess what."
"Of course, of course," replied the colonel carelessly--"My dear chap,
any friend of yours. No doubt he will prove an acquisition."
"He'll black his face, if that's what you mean," cried Blount, laughing.
"I don't doubt he'd black everyone else's eyes. I don't care; I'm not
refined. I like the jolly old pantomime where a man sits on his top
"Not on mine, please," said Sir Leopold Fischer, with dignity.
"Well, well," observed Crook, airily, "don't let's quarrel. There are
lower jokes than sitting on a top hat."
Dislike of the red-tied youth, born of his predatory opinions and
evident intimacy with the pretty godchild, led Fischer to say, in his
most sarcastic, magisterial manner: "No doubt you have found something
much lower than sitting on a top hat. What is it, pray?"
"Letting a top hat sit on you, for instance," said the Socialist.
"Now, now, now," cried the Canadian farmer with his barbarian
benevolence, "don't let's spoil a jolly evening. What I say is, let's
do something for the company tonight. Not blacking faces or sitting on
hats, if you don't like those--but something of the sort. Why couldn't
we have a proper old English pantomime--clown, columbine, and so on. I
saw one when I left England at twelve years old, and it's blazed in my
brain like a bonfire ever since. I came back to the old country
only last year, and I find the thing's extinct. Nothing but a lot of
snivelling fairy plays. I want a hot poker and a policeman made into
sausages, and they give me princesses moralising by moonlight, Blue
Birds, or something. Blue Beard's more in my line, and him I like best
when he turned into the pantaloon."
"I'm all for making a policeman into sausages," said John Crook. "It's a
better definition of Socialism than some recently given. But surely the
get-up would be too big a business."
"Not a scrap," cried Blount, quite carried away. "A harlequinade's the
quickest thing we can do, for two reasons. First, one can gag to any
degree; and, second, all the objects are household things--tables and
towel-horses and washing baskets, and things like that."
"That's true," admitted Crook, nodding eagerly and walking about.
"But I'm afraid I can't have my policeman's uniform? Haven't killed a
Blount frowned thoughtfully a space, and then smote his thigh. "Yes,
we can!" he cried. "I've got Florian's address here, and he knows every
costumier in London. I'll phone him to bring a police dress when he
comes." And he went bounding away to the telephone.
"Oh, it's glorious, godfather," cried Ruby, almost dancing. "I'll be
columbine and you shall be pantaloon."
The millionaire held himself stiff with a sort of heathen solemnity. "I
think, my dear," he said, "you must get someone else for pantaloon."
"I will be pantaloon, if you like," said Colonel Adams, taking his cigar
out of his mouth, and speaking for the first and last time.
"You ought to have a statue," cried the Canadian, as he came back,
radiant, from the telephone. "There, we are all fitted. Mr. Crook shall
be clown; he's a journalist and knows all the oldest jokes. I can
be harlequin, that only wants long legs and jumping about. My friend
Florian 'phones he's bringing the police costume; he's changing on the
way. We can act it in this very hall, the audience sitting on those
broad stairs opposite, one row above another. These front doors can be
the back scene, either open or shut. Shut, you see an English interior.
Open, a moonlit garden. It all goes by magic." And snatching a chance
piece of billiard chalk from his pocket, he ran it across the hall
floor, half-way between the front door and the staircase, to mark the
line of the footlights.
How even such a banquet of bosh was got ready in the time remained
a riddle. But they went at it with that mixture of recklessness and
industry that lives when youth is in a house; and youth was in that
house that night, though not all may have isolated the two faces and
hearts from which it flamed. As always happens, the invention grew
wilder and wilder through the very tameness of the bourgeois conventions
from which it had to create. The columbine looked charming in an
outstanding skirt that strangely resembled the large lamp-shade in the
drawing-room. The clown and pantaloon made themselves white with flour
from the cook, and red with rouge from some other domestic, who remained
(like all true Christian benefactors) anonymous. The harlequin, already
clad in silver paper out of cigar boxes, was, with difficulty, prevented
from smashing the old Victorian lustre chandeliers, that he might cover
himself with resplendent crystals. In fact he would certainly have done
so, had not Ruby unearthed some old pantomime paste jewels she had worn
at a fancy dress party as the Queen of Diamonds. Indeed, her uncle,
James Blount, was getting almost out of hand in his excitement; he was
like a schoolboy. He put a paper donkey's head unexpectedly on Father
Brown, who bore it patiently, and even found some private manner of
moving his ears. He even essayed to put the paper donkey's tail to the
coat-tails of Sir Leopold Fischer. This, however, was frowned down.
"Uncle is too absurd," cried Ruby to Crook, round whose shoulders she
had seriously placed a string of sausages. "Why is he so wild?"
"He is harlequin to your columbine," said Crook. "I am only the clown
who makes the old jokes."
"I wish you were the harlequin," she said, and left the string of
Father Brown, though he knew every detail done behind the scenes,
and had even evoked applause by his transformation of a pillow into a
pantomime baby, went round to the front and sat among the audience
with all the solemn expectation of a child at his first matinee. The
spectators were few, relations, one or two local friends, and the
servants; Sir Leopold sat in the front seat, his full and still
fur-collared figure largely obscuring the view of the little cleric
behind him; but it has never been settled by artistic authorities
whether the cleric lost much. The pantomime was utterly chaotic, yet not
contemptible; there ran through it a rage of improvisation which came
chiefly from Crook the clown. Commonly he was a clever man, and he was
inspired tonight with a wild omniscience, a folly wiser than the world,
that which comes to a young man who has seen for an instant a particular
expression on a particular face. He was supposed to be the clown, but
he was really almost everything else, the author (so far as there was an
author), the prompter, the scene-painter, the scene-shifter, and, above
all, the orchestra. At abrupt intervals in the outrageous performance
he would hurl himself in full costume at the piano and bang out some
popular music equally absurd and appropriate.
The climax of this, as of all else, was the moment when the two front
doors at the back of the scene flew open, showing the lovely moonlit
garden, but showing more prominently the famous professional guest; the
great Florian, dressed up as a policeman. The clown at the piano played
the constabulary chorus in the "Pirates of Penzance," but it was drowned
in the deafening applause, for every gesture of the great comic actor
was an admirable though restrained version of the carriage and manner
of the police. The harlequin leapt upon him and hit him over the helmet;
the pianist playing "Where did you get that hat?" he faced about in
admirably simulated astonishment, and then the leaping harlequin hit him
again (the pianist suggesting a few bars of "Then we had another one").
Then the harlequin rushed right into the arms of the policeman and fell
on top of him, amid a roar of applause. Then it was that the strange
actor gave that celebrated imitation of a dead man, of which the fame
still lingers round Putney. It was almost impossible to believe that a
living person could appear so limp.
The athletic harlequin swung him about like a sack or twisted or tossed
him like an Indian club; all the time to the most maddeningly ludicrous
tunes from the piano. When the harlequin heaved the comic constable
heavily off the floor the clown played "I arise from dreams of thee."
When he shuffled him across his back, "With my bundle on my shoulder,"
and when the harlequin finally let fall the policeman with a most
convincing thud, the lunatic at the instrument struck into a jingling
measure with some words which are still believed to have been, "I sent a
letter to my love and on the way I dropped it."
At about this limit of mental anarchy Father Brown's view was obscured
altogether; for the City magnate in front of him rose to his full height
and thrust his hands savagely into all his pockets. Then he sat down
nervously, still fumbling, and then stood up again. For an instant it
seemed seriously likely that he would stride across the footlights; then
he turned a glare at the clown playing the piano; and then he burst in
silence out of the room.
The priest had only watched for a few more minutes the absurd but not
inelegant dance of the amateur harlequin over his splendidly unconscious
foe. With real though rude art, the harlequin danced slowly backwards
out of the door into the garden, which was full of moonlight and
stillness. The vamped dress of silver paper and paste, which had been
too glaring in the footlights, looked more and more magical and silvery
as it danced away under a brilliant moon. The audience was closing in
with a cataract of applause, when Brown felt his arm abruptly touched,
and he was asked in a whisper to come into the colonel's study.
He followed his summoner with increasing doubt, which was not dispelled
by a solemn comicality in the scene of the study. There sat Colonel
Adams, still unaffectedly dressed as a pantaloon, with the knobbed
whalebone nodding above his brow, but with his poor old eyes sad enough
to have sobered a Saturnalia. Sir Leopold Fischer was leaning against
the mantelpiece and heaving with all the importance of panic.
"This is a very painful matter, Father Brown," said Adams. "The truth
is, those diamonds we all saw this afternoon seem to have vanished from
my friend's tail-coat pocket. And as you--"
"As I," supplemented Father Brown, with a broad grin, "was sitting just
"Nothing of the sort shall be suggested," said Colonel Adams, with a
firm look at Fischer, which rather implied that some such thing had been
suggested. "I only ask you to give me the assistance that any gentleman
"Which is turning out his pockets," said Father Brown, and proceeded to
do so, displaying seven and sixpence, a return ticket, a small silver
crucifix, a small breviary, and a stick of chocolate.
The colonel looked at him long, and then said, "Do you know, I should
like to see the inside of your head more than the inside of your
pockets. My daughter is one of your people, I know; well, she has
lately--" and he stopped.
"She has lately," cried out old Fischer, "opened her father's house to
a cut-throat Socialist, who says openly he would steal anything from a
richer man. This is the end of it. Here is the richer man--and none the
"If you want the inside of my head you can have it," said Brown rather
wearily. "What it's worth you can say afterwards. But the first thing I
find in that disused pocket is this: that men who mean to steal diamonds
don't talk Socialism. They are more likely," he added demurely, "to
Both the others shifted sharply and the priest went on:
"You see, we know these people, more or less. That Socialist would no
more steal a diamond than a Pyramid. We ought to look at once to the one
man we don't know. The fellow acting the policeman--Florian. Where is he
exactly at this minute, I wonder."
The pantaloon sprang erect and strode out of the room. An interlude
ensued, during which the millionaire stared at the priest, and the
priest at his breviary; then the pantaloon returned and said, with
staccato gravity, "The policeman is still lying on the stage. The
curtain has gone up and down six times; he is still lying there."
Father Brown dropped his book and stood staring with a look of blank
mental ruin. Very slowly a light began to creep in his grey eyes, and
then he made the scarcely obvious answer.
"Please forgive me, colonel, but when did your wife die?"
"Wife!" replied the staring soldier, "she died this year two months. Her
brother James arrived just a week too late to see her."
The little priest bounded like a rabbit shot. "Come on!" he cried in
quite unusual excitement. "Come on! We've got to go and look at that
They rushed on to the now curtained stage, breaking rudely past the
columbine and clown (who seemed whispering quite contentedly), and
Father Brown bent over the prostrate comic policeman.
"Chloroform," he said as he rose; "I only guessed it just now."
There was a startled stillness, and then the colonel said slowly,
"Please say seriously what all this means."
Father Brown suddenly shouted with laughter, then stopped, and
only struggled with it for instants during the rest of his speech.
"Gentlemen," he gasped, "there's not much time to talk. I must run after
the criminal. But this great French actor who played the policeman--this
clever corpse the harlequin waltzed with and dandled and threw about--he
was--" His voice again failed him, and he turned his back to run.
"He was?" called Fischer inquiringly.
"A real policeman," said Father Brown, and ran away into the dark.
There were hollows and bowers at the extreme end of that leafy garden,
in which the laurels and other immortal shrubs showed against sapphire
sky and silver moon, even in that midwinter, warm colours as of the
south. The green gaiety of the waving laurels, the rich purple indigo
of the night, the moon like a monstrous crystal, make an almost
irresponsible romantic picture; and among the top branches of the garden
trees a strange figure is climbing, who looks not so much romantic as
impossible. He sparkles from head to heel, as if clad in ten million
moons; the real moon catches him at every movement and sets a new inch
of him on fire. But he swings, flashing and successful, from the short
tree in this garden to the tall, rambling tree in the other, and only
stops there because a shade has slid under the smaller tree and has
unmistakably called up to him.
"Well, Flambeau," says the voice, "you really look like a Flying Star;
but that always means a Falling Star at last."
The silver, sparkling figure above seems to lean forward in the laurels
and, confident of escape, listens to the little figure below.
"You never did anything better, Flambeau. It was clever to come from
Canada (with a Paris ticket, I suppose) just a week after Mrs. Adams
died, when no one was in a mood to ask questions. It was cleverer to
have marked down the Flying Stars and the very day of Fischer's coming.
But there's no cleverness, but mere genius, in what followed. Stealing
the stones, I suppose, was nothing to you. You could have done it by
sleight of hand in a hundred other ways besides that pretence of putting
a paper donkey's tail to Fischer's coat. But in the rest you eclipsed
The silvery figure among the green leaves seems to linger as if
hypnotised, though his escape is easy behind him; he is staring at the
"Oh, yes," says the man below, "I know all about it. I know you not
only forced the pantomime, but put it to a double use. You were going
to steal the stones quietly; news came by an accomplice that you were
already suspected, and a capable police officer was coming to rout you
up that very night. A common thief would have been thankful for the
warning and fled; but you are a poet. You already had the clever notion
of hiding the jewels in a blaze of false stage jewellery. Now, you saw
that if the dress were a harlequin's the appearance of a policeman
would be quite in keeping. The worthy officer started from Putney police
station to find you, and walked into the queerest trap ever set in this
world. When the front door opened he walked straight on to the stage of
a Christmas pantomime, where he could be kicked, clubbed, stunned and
drugged by the dancing harlequin, amid roars of laughter from all
the most respectable people in Putney. Oh, you will never do anything
better. And now, by the way, you might give me back those diamonds."
The green branch on which the glittering figure swung, rustled as if in
astonishment; but the voice went on:
"I want you to give them back, Flambeau, and I want you to give up this
life. There is still youth and honour and humour in you; don't fancy
they will last in that trade. Men may keep a sort of level of good, but
no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes
down and down. The kind man drinks and turns cruel; the frank man kills
and lies about it. Many a man I've known started like you to be an
honest outlaw, a merry robber of the rich, and ended stamped into slime.
Maurice Blum started out as an anarchist of principle, a father of the
poor; he ended a greasy spy and tale-bearer that both sides used and
despised. Harry Burke started his free money movement sincerely enough;
now he's sponging on a half-starved sister for endless brandies and
sodas. Lord Amber went into wild society in a sort of chivalry; now he's
paying blackmail to the lowest vultures in London. Captain Barillon
was the great gentleman-apache before your time; he died in a madhouse,
screaming with fear of the "narks" and receivers that had betrayed
him and hunted him down. I know the woods look very free behind you,
Flambeau; I know that in a flash you could melt into them like a monkey.
But some day you will be an old grey monkey, Flambeau. You will sit up
in your free forest cold at heart and close to death, and the tree-tops
will be very bare."
Everything continued still, as if the small man below held the other in
the tree in some long invisible leash; and he went on:
"Your downward steps have begun. You used to boast of doing nothing
mean, but you are doing something mean tonight. You are leaving
suspicion on an honest boy with a good deal against him already; you are
separating him from the woman he loves and who loves him. But you will
do meaner things than that before you die."
Three flashing diamonds fell from the tree to the turf. The small man
stooped to pick them up, and when he looked up again the green cage of
the tree was emptied of its silver bird.
The restoration of the gems (accidentally picked up by Father Brown, of
all people) ended the evening in uproarious triumph; and Sir Leopold, in
his height of good humour, even told the priest that though he himself
had broader views, he could respect those whose creed required them to
be cloistered and ignorant of this world.
The Invisible Man
In the cool blue twilight of two steep streets in Camden Town, the shop
at the corner, a confectioner's, glowed like the butt of a cigar. One
should rather say, perhaps, like the butt of a firework, for the light
was of many colours and some complexity, broken up by many mirrors and
dancing on many gilt and gaily-coloured cakes and sweetmeats. Against
this one fiery glass were glued the noses of many gutter-snipes, for
the chocolates were all wrapped in those red and gold and green metallic
colours which are almost better than chocolate itself; and the huge
white wedding-cake in the window was somehow at once remote and
satisfying, just as if the whole North Pole were good to eat.
Such rainbow provocations could naturally collect the youth of the
neighbourhood up to the ages of ten or twelve. But this corner was also
attractive to youth at a later stage; and a young man, not less than
twenty-four, was staring into the same shop window. To him, also,
the shop was of fiery charm, but this attraction was not wholly to be
explained by chocolates; which, however, he was far from despising.
He was a tall, burly, red-haired young man, with a resolute face but
a listless manner. He carried under his arm a flat, grey portfolio of
black-and-white sketches, which he had sold with more or less success
to publishers ever since his uncle (who was an admiral) had disinherited
him for Socialism, because of a lecture which he had delivered against
that economic theory. His name was John Turnbull Angus.
Entering at last, he walked through the confectioner's shop to the back
room, which was a sort of pastry-cook restaurant, merely raising his hat
to the young lady who was serving there. She was a dark, elegant, alert
girl in black, with a high colour and very quick, dark eyes; and after
the ordinary interval she followed him into the inner room to take his
His order was evidently a usual one. "I want, please," he said with
precision, "one halfpenny bun and a small cup of black coffee." An
instant before the girl could turn away he added, "Also, I want you to
The young lady of the shop stiffened suddenly and said, "Those are jokes
I don't allow."
The red-haired young man lifted grey eyes of an unexpected gravity.
"Really and truly," he said, "it's as serious--as serious as the
halfpenny bun. It is expensive, like the bun; one pays for it. It is
indigestible, like the bun. It hurts."
The dark young lady had never taken her dark eyes off him, but seemed
to be studying him with almost tragic exactitude. At the end of her
scrutiny she had something like the shadow of a smile, and she sat down
in a chair.
"Don't you think," observed Angus, absently, "that it's rather cruel to
eat these halfpenny buns? They might grow up into penny buns. I shall
give up these brutal sports when we are married."
The dark young lady rose from her chair and walked to the window,
evidently in a state of strong but not unsympathetic cogitation. When at
last she swung round again with an air of resolution she was bewildered
to observe that the young man was carefully laying out on the table
various objects from the shop-window. They included a pyramid of highly
coloured sweets, several plates of sandwiches, and the two decanters
containing that mysterious port and sherry which are peculiar to
pastry-cooks. In the middle of this neat arrangement he had carefully
let down the enormous load of white sugared cake which had been the huge
ornament of the window.
"What on earth are you doing?" she asked.
"Duty, my dear Laura," he began.
"Oh, for the Lord's sake, stop a minute," she cried, "and don't talk to
me in that way. I mean, what is all that?"
"A ceremonial meal, Miss Hope."
"And what is that?" she asked impatiently, pointing to the mountain of
"The wedding-cake, Mrs. Angus," he said.
The girl marched to that article, removed it with some clatter, and put
it back in the shop window; she then returned, and, putting her elegant
elbows on the table, regarded the young man not unfavourably but with
"You don't give me any time to think," she said.
"I'm not such a fool," he answered; "that's my Christian humility."
She was still looking at him; but she had grown considerably graver
behind the smile.
"Mr. Angus," she said steadily, "before there is a minute more of this
nonsense I must tell you something about myself as shortly as I can.'"
"Delighted," replied Angus gravely. "You might tell me something about
myself, too, while you are about it."
"Oh, do hold your tongue and listen," she said. "It's nothing that I'm
ashamed of, and it isn't even anything that I'm specially sorry about.
But what would you say if there were something that is no business of
mine and yet is my nightmare?"
"In that case," said the man seriously, "I should suggest that you bring
back the cake."
"Well, you must listen to the story first," said Laura, persistently.
"To begin with, I must tell you that my father owned the inn called the
'Red Fish' at Ludbury, and I used to serve people in the bar."
"I have often wondered," he said, "why there was a kind of a Christian
air about this one confectioner's shop."
"Ludbury is a sleepy, grassy little hole in the Eastern Counties, and
the only kind of people who ever came to the 'Red Fish' were occasional
commercial travellers, and for the rest, the most awful people you can
see, only you've never seen them. I mean little, loungy men, who had
just enough to live on and had nothing to do but lean about in bar-rooms
and bet on horses, in bad clothes that were just too good for them.
Even these wretched young rotters were not very common at our house; but
there were two of them that were a lot too common--common in every sort
of way. They both lived on money of their own, and were wearisomely idle
and over-dressed. But yet I was a bit sorry for them, because I half
believe they slunk into our little empty bar because each of them had a
slight deformity; the sort of thing that some yokels laugh at. It wasn't
exactly a deformity either; it was more an oddity. One of them was
a surprisingly small man, something like a dwarf, or at least like a
jockey. He was not at all jockeyish to look at, though; he had a round
black head and a well-trimmed black beard, bright eyes like a bird's; he
jingled money in his pockets; he jangled a great gold watch chain; and
he never turned up except dressed just too much like a gentleman to
be one. He was no fool though, though a futile idler; he was curiously
clever at all kinds of things that couldn't be the slightest use; a sort
of impromptu conjuring; making fifteen matches set fire to each other
like a regular firework; or cutting a banana or some such thing into a
dancing doll. His name was Isidore Smythe; and I can see him still, with
his little dark face, just coming up to the counter, making a jumping
kangaroo out of five cigars.
"The other fellow was more silent and more ordinary; but somehow he
alarmed me much more than poor little Smythe. He was very tall and
slight, and light-haired; his nose had a high bridge, and he might
almost have been handsome in a spectral sort of way; but he had one of
the most appalling squints I have ever seen or heard of. When he looked
straight at you, you didn't know where you were yourself, let alone what
he was looking at. I fancy this sort of disfigurement embittered the
poor chap a little; for while Smythe was ready to show off his monkey
tricks anywhere, James Welkin (that was the squinting man's name) never
did anything except soak in our bar parlour, and go for great walks
by himself in the flat, grey country all round. All the same, I think
Smythe, too, was a little sensitive about being so small, though he
carried it off more smartly. And so it was that I was really puzzled, as
well as startled, and very sorry, when they both offered to marry me in
the same week.
"Well, I did what I've since thought was perhaps a silly thing. But,
after all, these freaks were my friends in a way; and I had a horror of
their thinking I refused them for the real reason, which was that they
were so impossibly ugly. So I made up some gas of another sort, about
never meaning to marry anyone who hadn't carved his way in the world. I
said it was a point of principle with me not to live on money that
was just inherited like theirs. Two days after I had talked in this
well-meaning sort of way, the whole trouble began. The first thing I
heard was that both of them had gone off to seek their fortunes, as if
they were in some silly fairy tale.
"Well, I've never seen either of them from that day to this. But I've
had two letters from the little man called Smythe, and really they were
"Ever heard of the other man?" asked Angus.
"No, he never wrote," said the girl, after an instant's hesitation.
"Smythe's first letter was simply to say that he had started out walking
with Welkin to London; but Welkin was such a good walker that the little
man dropped out of it, and took a rest by the roadside. He happened to
be picked up by some travelling show, and, partly because he was nearly
a dwarf, and partly because he was really a clever little wretch, he
got on quite well in the show business, and was soon sent up to the
Aquarium, to do some tricks that I forget. That was his first letter.
His second was much more of a startler, and I only got it last week."
The man called Angus emptied his coffee-cup and regarded her with mild
and patient eyes. Her own mouth took a slight twist of laughter as
she resumed, "I suppose you've seen on the hoardings all about this
'Smythe's Silent Service'? Or you must be the only person that hasn't.
Oh, I don't know much about it, it's some clockwork invention for doing
all the housework by machinery. You know the sort of thing: 'Press a
Button--A Butler who Never Drinks.' 'Turn a Handle--Ten Housemaids who
Never Flirt.' You must have seen the advertisements. Well, whatever
these machines are, they are making pots of money; and they are making
it all for that little imp whom I knew down in Ludbury. I can't help
feeling pleased the poor little chap has fallen on his feet; but the
plain fact is, I'm in terror of his turning up any minute and telling me
he's carved his way in the world--as he certainly has."
"And the other man?" repeated Angus with a sort of obstinate quietude.
Laura Hope got to her feet suddenly. "My friend," she said, "I think
you are a witch. Yes, you are quite right. I have not seen a line of the
other man's writing; and I have no more notion than the dead of what or
where he is. But it is of him that I am frightened. It is he who is all
about my path. It is he who has half driven me mad. Indeed, I think he
has driven me mad; for I have felt him where he could not have been, and
I have heard his voice when he could not have spoken."
"Well, my dear," said the young man, cheerfully, "if he were Satan
himself, he is done for now you have told somebody. One goes mad all
alone, old girl. But when was it you fancied you felt and heard our
"I heard James Welkin laugh as plainly as I hear you speak," said the
girl, steadily. "There was nobody there, for I stood just outside the
shop at the corner, and could see down both streets at once. I had
forgotten how he laughed, though his laugh was as odd as his squint. I
had not thought of him for nearly a year. But it's a solemn truth that a
few seconds later the first letter came from his rival."
"Did you ever make the spectre speak or squeak, or anything?" asked
Angus, with some interest.
Laura suddenly shuddered, and then said, with an unshaken voice, "Yes.
Just when I had finished reading the second letter from Isidore Smythe
announcing his success. Just then, I heard Welkin say, 'He shan't have
you, though.' It was quite plain, as if he were in the room. It is
awful, I think I must be mad."
"If you really were mad," said the young man, "you would think you must
be sane. But certainly there seems to me to be something a little rum
about this unseen gentleman. Two heads are better than one--I spare you
allusions to any other organs and really, if you would allow me, as
a sturdy, practical man, to bring back the wedding-cake out of the
Even as he spoke, there was a sort of steely shriek in the street
outside, and a small motor, driven at devilish speed, shot up to the
door of the shop and stuck there. In the same flash of time a small man
in a shiny top hat stood stamping in the outer room.
Angus, who had hitherto maintained hilarious ease from motives of mental
hygiene, revealed the strain of his soul by striding abruptly out of
the inner room and confronting the new-comer. A glance at him was quite
sufficient to confirm the savage guesswork of a man in love. This
very dapper but dwarfish figure, with the spike of black beard carried
insolently forward, the clever unrestful eyes, the neat but very nervous
fingers, could be none other than the man just described to him: Isidore
Smythe, who made dolls out of banana skins and match-boxes; Isidore
Smythe, who made millions out of undrinking butlers and unflirting
housemaids of metal. For a moment the two men, instinctively
understanding each other's air of possession, looked at each other with
that curious cold generosity which is the soul of rivalry.
Mr. Smythe, however, made no allusion to the ultimate ground of their
antagonism, but said simply and explosively, "Has Miss Hope seen that
thing on the window?"
"On the window?" repeated the staring Angus.
"There's no time to explain other things," said the small millionaire
shortly. "There's some tomfoolery going on here that has to be
He pointed his polished walking-stick at the window, recently depleted
by the bridal preparations of Mr. Angus; and that gentleman was
astonished to see along the front of the glass a long strip of paper
pasted, which had certainly not been on the window when he looked
through it some time before. Following the energetic Smythe outside into
the street, he found that some yard and a half of stamp paper had been
carefully gummed along the glass outside, and on this was written in
straggly characters, "If you marry Smythe, he will die."
"Laura," said Angus, putting his big red head into the shop, "you're not
"It's the writing of that fellow Welkin," said Smythe gruffly. "I
haven't seen him for years, but he's always bothering me. Five times in
the last fortnight he's had threatening letters left at my flat, and I
can't even find out who leaves them, let alone if it is Welkin himself.
The porter of the flats swears that no suspicious characters have been
seen, and here he has pasted up a sort of dado on a public shop window,
while the people in the shop--"
"Quite so," said Angus modestly, "while the people in the shop were
having tea. Well, sir, I can assure you I appreciate your common sense
in dealing so directly with the matter. We can talk about other things
afterwards. The fellow cannot be very far off yet, for I swear there was
no paper there when I went last to the window, ten or fifteen minutes
ago. On the other hand, he's too far off to be chased, as we don't even
know the direction. If you'll take my advice, Mr. Smythe, you'll put
this at once in the hands of some energetic inquiry man, private rather
than public. I know an extremely clever fellow, who has set up in
business five minutes from here in your car. His name's Flambeau, and
though his youth was a bit stormy, he's a strictly honest man now, and
his brains are worth money. He lives in Lucknow Mansions, Hampstead."
"That is odd," said the little man, arching his black eyebrows. "I live,
myself, in Himylaya Mansions, round the corner. Perhaps you might care
to come with me; I can go to my rooms and sort out these queer Welkin
documents, while you run round and get your friend the detective."
"You are very good," said Angus politely. "Well, the sooner we act the
Both men, with a queer kind of impromptu fairness, took the same sort of
formal farewell of the lady, and both jumped into the brisk little
car. As Smythe took the handles and they turned the great corner of the
street, Angus was amused to see a gigantesque poster of "Smythe's
Silent Service," with a picture of a huge headless iron doll, carrying a
saucepan with the legend, "A Cook Who is Never Cross."
"I use them in my own flat," said the little black-bearded man,
laughing, "partly for advertisements, and partly for real convenience.
Honestly, and all above board, those big clockwork dolls of mine do
bring your coals or claret or a timetable quicker than any live servants
I've ever known, if you know which knob to press. But I'll never deny,
between ourselves, that such servants have their disadvantages, too."
"Indeed?" said Angus; "is there something they can't do?"
"Yes," replied Smythe coolly; "they can't tell me who left those
threatening letters at my flat."
The man's motor was small and swift like himself; in fact, like his
domestic service, it was of his own invention. If he was an advertising
quack, he was one who believed in his own wares. The sense of something
tiny and flying was accentuated as they swept up long white curves of
road in the dead but open daylight of evening. Soon the white curves
came sharper and dizzier; they were upon ascending spirals, as they say
in the modern religions. For, indeed, they were cresting a corner of
London which is almost as precipitous as Edinburgh, if not quite so
picturesque. Terrace rose above terrace, and the special tower of flats
they sought, rose above them all to almost Egyptian height, gilt by
the level sunset. The change, as they turned the corner and entered the
crescent known as Himylaya Mansions, was as abrupt as the opening of a
window; for they found that pile of flats sitting above London as above
a green sea of slate. Opposite to the mansions, on the other side of the
gravel crescent, was a bushy enclosure more like a steep hedge or dyke
than a garden, and some way below that ran a strip of artificial water,
a sort of canal, like the moat of that embowered fortress. As the car
swept round the crescent it passed, at one corner, the stray stall of
a man selling chestnuts; and right away at the other end of the curve,
Angus could see a dim blue policeman walking slowly. These were the only
human shapes in that high suburban solitude; but he had an irrational
sense that they expressed the speechless poetry of London. He felt as if
they were figures in a story.
The little car shot up to the right house like a bullet, and shot out
its owner like a bomb shell. He was immediately inquiring of a tall
commissionaire in shining braid, and a short porter in shirt sleeves,
whether anybody or anything had been seeking his apartments. He was
assured that nobody and nothing had passed these officials since his
last inquiries; whereupon he and the slightly bewildered Angus were shot
up in the lift like a rocket, till they reached the top floor.
"Just come in for a minute," said the breathless Smythe. "I want to show
you those Welkin letters. Then you might run round the corner and fetch
your friend." He pressed a button concealed in the wall, and the door
opened of itself.
It opened on a long, commodious ante-room, of which the only arresting
features, ordinarily speaking, were the rows of tall half-human
mechanical figures that stood up on both sides like tailors' dummies.
Like tailors' dummies they were headless; and like tailors' dummies
they had a handsome unnecessary humpiness in the shoulders, and a
pigeon-breasted protuberance of chest; but barring this, they were not
much more like a human figure than any automatic machine at a station
that is about the human height. They had two great hooks like arms, for
carrying trays; and they were painted pea-green, or vermilion, or
black for convenience of distinction; in every other way they were only
automatic machines and nobody would have looked twice at them. On
this occasion, at least, nobody did. For between the two rows of
these domestic dummies lay something more interesting than most of the
mechanics of the world. It was a white, tattered scrap of paper scrawled
with red ink; and the agile inventor had snatched it up almost as soon
as the door flew open. He handed it to Angus without a word. The red ink
on it actually was not dry, and the message ran, "If you have been to
see her today, I shall kill you."
There was a short silence, and then Isidore Smythe said quietly, "Would
you like a little whiskey? I rather feel as if I should."
"Thank you; I should like a little Flambeau," said Angus, gloomily.
"This business seems to me to be getting rather grave. I'm going round
at once to fetch him."
"Right you are," said the other, with admirable cheerfulness. "Bring him
round here as quick as you can."
But as Angus closed the front door behind him he saw Smythe push back a
button, and one of the clockwork images glided from its place and slid
along a groove in the floor carrying a tray with syphon and decanter.
There did seem something a trifle weird about leaving the little man
alone among those dead servants, who were coming to life as the door
Six steps down from Smythe's landing the man in shirt sleeves was doing
something with a pail. Angus stopped to extract a promise, fortified
with a prospective bribe, that he would remain in that place until the
return with the detective, and would keep count of any kind of stranger
coming up those stairs. Dashing down to the front hall he then laid
similar charges of vigilance on the commissionaire at the front door,
from whom he learned the simplifying circumstances that there was no
back door. Not content with this, he captured the floating policeman
and induced him to stand opposite the entrance and watch it; and finally
paused an instant for a pennyworth of chestnuts, and an inquiry as to
the probable length of the merchant's stay in the neighbourhood.
The chestnut seller, turning up the collar of his coat, told him he
should probably be moving shortly, as he thought it was going to snow.
Indeed, the evening was growing grey and bitter, but Angus, with all his
eloquence, proceeded to nail the chestnut man to his post.
"Keep yourself warm on your own chestnuts," he said earnestly. "Eat
up your whole stock; I'll make it worth your while. I'll give you a
sovereign if you'll wait here till I come back, and then tell me
whether any man, woman, or child has gone into that house where the
commissionaire is standing."
He then walked away smartly, with a last look at the besieged tower.
"I've made a ring round that room, anyhow," he said. "They can't all
four of them be Mr. Welkin's accomplices."
Lucknow Mansions were, so to speak, on a lower platform of that hill
of houses, of which Himylaya Mansions might be called the peak. Mr.
Flambeau's semi-official flat was on the ground floor, and presented
in every way a marked contrast to the American machinery and cold
hotel-like luxury of the flat of the Silent Service. Flambeau, who was
a friend of Angus, received him in a rococo artistic den behind his
office, of which the ornaments were sabres, harquebuses, Eastern
curiosities, flasks of Italian wine, savage cooking-pots, a plumy
Persian cat, and a small dusty-looking Roman Catholic priest, who looked
particularly out of place.
"This is my friend Father Brown," said Flambeau. "I've often wanted you
to meet him. Splendid weather, this; a little cold for Southerners like
"Yes, I think it will keep clear," said Angus, sitting down on a
violet-striped Eastern ottoman.
"No," said the priest quietly, "it has begun to snow."
And, indeed, as he spoke, the first few flakes, foreseen by the man of
chestnuts, began to drift across the darkening windowpane.
"Well," said Angus heavily. "I'm afraid I've come on business, and
rather jumpy business at that. The fact is, Flambeau, within a stone's
throw of your house is a fellow who badly wants your help; he's
perpetually being haunted and threatened by an invisible enemy--a
scoundrel whom nobody has even seen." As Angus proceeded to tell the
whole tale of Smythe and Welkin, beginning with Laura's story, and
going on with his own, the supernatural laugh at the corner of two empty
streets, the strange distinct words spoken in an empty room, Flambeau
grew more and more vividly concerned, and the little priest seemed to be
left out of it, like a piece of furniture. When it came to the scribbled
stamp-paper pasted on the window, Flambeau rose, seeming to fill the
room with his huge shoulders.
"If you don't mind," he said, "I think you had better tell me the rest
on the nearest road to this man's house. It strikes me, somehow, that
there is no time to be lost."
"Delighted," said Angus, rising also, "though he's safe enough for the
present, for I've set four men to watch the only hole to his burrow."
They turned out into the street, the small priest trundling after them
with the docility of a small dog. He merely said, in a cheerful way,
like one making conversation, "How quick the snow gets thick on the
As they threaded the steep side streets already powdered with silver,
Angus finished his story; and by the time they reached the crescent with
the towering flats, he had leisure to turn his attention to the four
sentinels. The chestnut seller, both before and after receiving a
sovereign, swore stubbornly that he had watched the door and seen no
visitor enter. The policeman was even more emphatic. He said he had had
experience of crooks of all kinds, in top hats and in rags; he wasn't so
green as to expect suspicious characters to look suspicious; he looked
out for anybody, and, so help him, there had been nobody. And when all
three men gathered round the gilded commissionaire, who still stood
smiling astride of the porch, the verdict was more final still.
"I've got a right to ask any man, duke or dustman, what he wants in
these flats," said the genial and gold-laced giant, "and I'll swear
there's been nobody to ask since this gentleman went away."
The unimportant Father Brown, who stood back, looking modestly at the
pavement, here ventured to say meekly, "Has nobody been up and down
stairs, then, since the snow began to fall? It began while we were all
round at Flambeau's."
"Nobody's been in here, sir, you can take it from me," said the
official, with beaming authority.
"Then I wonder what that is?" said the priest, and stared at the ground
blankly like a fish.
The others all looked down also; and Flambeau used a fierce exclamation
and a French gesture. For it was unquestionably true that down the
middle of the entrance guarded by the man in gold lace, actually between
the arrogant, stretched legs of that colossus, ran a stringy pattern of
grey footprints stamped upon the white snow.
"God!" cried Angus involuntarily, "the Invisible Man!"
Without another word he turned and dashed up the stairs, with Flambeau
following; but Father Brown still stood looking about him in the
snow-clad street as if he had lost interest in his query.
Flambeau was plainly in a mood to break down the door with his big
shoulders; but the Scotchman, with more reason, if less intuition,
fumbled about on the frame of the door till he found the invisible
button; and the door swung slowly open.
It showed substantially the same serried interior; the hall had grown
darker, though it was still struck here and there with the last crimson
shafts of sunset, and one or two of the headless machines had been moved
from their places for this or that purpose, and stood here and there
about the twilit place. The green and red of their coats were all
darkened in the dusk; and their likeness to human shapes slightly
increased by their very shapelessness. But in the middle of them all,
exactly where the paper with the red ink had lain, there lay something
that looked like red ink spilt out of its bottle. But it was not red
With a French combination of reason and violence Flambeau simply said
"Murder!" and, plunging into the flat, had explored, every corner and
cupboard of it in five minutes. But if he expected to find a corpse he
found none. Isidore Smythe was not in the place, either dead or alive.
After the most tearing search the two men met each other in the outer
hall, with streaming faces and staring eyes. "My friend," said Flambeau,
talking French in his excitement, "not only is your murderer invisible,
but he makes invisible also the murdered man."
Angus looked round at the dim room full of dummies, and in some Celtic
corner of his Scotch soul a shudder started. One of the life-size dolls
stood immediately overshadowing the blood stain, summoned, perhaps,
by the slain man an instant before he fell. One of the high-shouldered
hooks that served the thing for arms, was a little lifted, and Angus had
suddenly the horrid fancy that poor Smythe's own iron child had struck
him down. Matter had rebelled, and these machines had killed their
master. But even so, what had they done with him?
"Eaten him?" said the nightmare at his ear; and he sickened for an
instant at the idea of rent, human remains absorbed and crushed into all
that acephalous clockwork.
He recovered his mental health by an emphatic effort, and said to
Flambeau, "Well, there it is. The poor fellow has evaporated like a
cloud and left a red streak on the floor. The tale does not belong to
"There is only one thing to be done," said Flambeau, "whether it belongs
to this world or the other. I must go down and talk to my friend."
They descended, passing the man with the pail, who again asseverated
that he had let no intruder pass, down to the commissionaire and the
hovering chestnut man, who rigidly reasserted their own watchfulness.
But when Angus looked round for his fourth confirmation he could not see
it, and called out with some nervousness, "Where is the policeman?"
"I beg your pardon," said Father Brown; "that is my fault. I just sent
him down the road to investigate something--that I just thought worth
"Well, we want him back pretty soon," said Angus abruptly, "for the
wretched man upstairs has not only been murdered, but wiped out."
"How?" asked the priest.
"Father," said Flambeau, after a pause, "upon my soul I believe it is
more in your department than mine. No friend or foe has entered the
house, but Smythe is gone, as if stolen by the fairies. If that is not
As he spoke they were all checked by an unusual sight; the big blue
policeman came round the corner of the crescent, running. He came
straight up to Brown.
"You're right, sir," he panted, "they've just found poor Mr. Smythe's
body in the canal down below."
Angus put his hand wildly to his head. "Did he run down and drown
himself?" he asked.
"He never came down, I'll swear," said the constable, "and he wasn't
drowned either, for he died of a great stab over the heart."
"And yet you saw no one enter?" said Flambeau in a grave voice.
"Let us walk down the road a little," said the priest.
As they reached the other end of the crescent he observed abruptly,
"Stupid of me! I forgot to ask the policeman something. I wonder if they
found a light brown sack."
"Why a light brown sack?" asked Angus, astonished.
"Because if it was any other coloured sack, the case must begin over
again," said Father Brown; "but if it was a light brown sack, why, the
case is finished."
"I am pleased to hear it," said Angus with hearty irony. "It hasn't
begun, so far as I am concerned."
"You must tell us all about it," said Flambeau with a strange heavy
simplicity, like a child.
Unconsciously they were walking with quickening steps down the long
sweep of road on the other side of the high crescent, Father Brown
leading briskly, though in silence. At last he said with an almost
touching vagueness, "Well, I'm afraid you'll think it so prosy. We
always begin at the abstract end of things, and you can't begin this
story anywhere else.
"Have you ever noticed this--that people never answer what you say? They
answer what you mean--or what they think you mean. Suppose one lady says
to another in a country house, 'Is anybody staying with you?' the lady
doesn't answer 'Yes; the butler, the three footmen, the parlourmaid, and
so on,' though the parlourmaid may be in the room, or the butler behind
her chair. She says 'There is nobody staying with us,' meaning nobody of
the sort you mean. But suppose a doctor inquiring into an epidemic asks,
'Who is staying in the house?' then the lady will remember the butler,
the parlourmaid, and the rest. All language is used like that; you never
get a question answered literally, even when you get it answered truly.
When those four quite honest men said that no man had gone into the
Mansions, they did not really mean that no man had gone into them. They
meant no man whom they could suspect of being your man. A man did go
into the house, and did come out of it, but they never noticed him."
"An invisible man?" inquired Angus, raising his red eyebrows. "A
mentally invisible man," said Father Brown.
A minute or two after he resumed in the same unassuming voice, like a
man thinking his way. "Of course you can't think of such a man, until
you do think of him. That's where his cleverness comes in. But I came
to think of him through two or three little things in the tale Mr. Angus
told us. First, there was the fact that this Welkin went for long walks.
And then there was the vast lot of stamp paper on the window. And then,
most of all, there were the two things the young lady said--things that
couldn't be true. Don't get annoyed," he added hastily, noting a sudden
movement of the Scotchman's head; "she thought they were true. A person
can't be quite alone in a street a second before she receives a letter.
She can't be quite alone in a street when she starts reading a letter
just received. There must be somebody pretty near her; he must be
"Why must there be somebody near her?" asked Angus.
"Because," said Father Brown, "barring carrier-pigeons, somebody must
have brought her the letter."
"Do you really mean to say," asked Flambeau, with energy, "that Welkin
carried his rival's letters to his lady?"
"Yes," said the priest. "Welkin carried his rival's letters to his lady.
You see, he had to."
"Oh, I can't stand much more of this," exploded Flambeau. "Who is this
fellow? What does he look like? What is the usual get-up of a mentally
"He is dressed rather handsomely in red, blue and gold," replied the
priest promptly with precision, "and in this striking, and even showy,
costume he entered Himylaya Mansions under eight human eyes; he killed
Smythe in cold blood, and came down into the street again carrying the
dead body in his arms--"
"Reverend sir," cried Angus, standing still, "are you raving mad, or am
"You are not mad," said Brown, "only a little unobservant. You have not
noticed such a man as this, for example."
He took three quick strides forward, and put his hand on the shoulder of
an ordinary passing postman who had bustled by them unnoticed under the
shade of the trees.
"Nobody ever notices postmen somehow," he said thoughtfully; "yet they
have passions like other men, and even carry large bags where a small
corpse can be stowed quite easily."
The postman, instead of turning naturally, had ducked and tumbled
against the garden fence. He was a lean fair-bearded man of very
ordinary appearance, but as he turned an alarmed face over his shoulder,
all three men were fixed with an almost fiendish squint.
* * * * *
Flambeau went back to his sabres, purple rugs and Persian cat, having
many things to attend to. John Turnbull Angus went back to the lady at
the shop, with whom that imprudent young man contrives to be extremely
comfortable. But Father Brown walked those snow-covered hills under the
stars for many hours with a murderer, and what they said to each other
will never be known.
The Honour of Israel Gow
A stormy evening of olive and silver was closing in, as Father Brown,
wrapped in a grey Scotch plaid, came to the end of a grey Scotch valley
and beheld the strange castle of Glengyle. It stopped one end of the
glen or hollow like a blind alley; and it looked like the end of the
world. Rising in steep roofs and spires of seagreen slate in the manner
of the old French-Scotch chateaux, it reminded an Englishman of the
sinister steeple-hats of witches in fairy tales; and the pine woods
that rocked round the green turrets looked, by comparison, as black
as numberless flocks of ravens. This note of a dreamy, almost a sleepy
devilry, was no mere fancy from the landscape. For there did rest on
the place one of those clouds of pride and madness and mysterious sorrow
which lie more heavily on the noble houses of Scotland than on any other
of the children of men. For Scotland has a double dose of the poison
called heredity; the sense of blood in the aristocrat, and the sense of
doom in the Calvinist.
The priest had snatched a day from his business at Glasgow to meet his
friend Flambeau, the amateur detective, who was at Glengyle Castle with
another more formal officer investigating the life and death of the late
Earl of Glengyle. That mysterious person was the last representative
of a race whose valour, insanity, and violent cunning had made them
terrible even among the sinister nobility of their nation in the
sixteenth century. None were deeper in that labyrinthine ambition, in
chamber within chamber of that palace of lies that was built up around
Mary Queen of Scots.
The rhyme in the country-side attested the motive and the result of
their machinations candidly:
As green sap to the simmer trees
Is red gold to the Ogilvies.
For many centuries there had never been a decent lord in Glengyle
Castle; and with the Victorian era one would have thought that all
eccentricities were exhausted. The last Glengyle, however, satisfied his
tribal tradition by doing the only thing that was left for him to do; he
disappeared. I do not mean that he went abroad; by all accounts he was
still in the castle, if he was anywhere. But though his name was in the
church register and the big red Peerage, nobody ever saw him under the
If anyone saw him it was a solitary man-servant, something between a
groom and a gardener. He was so deaf that the more business-like
assumed him to be dumb; while the more penetrating declared him to be
half-witted. A gaunt, red-haired labourer, with a dogged jaw and chin,
but quite blank blue eyes, he went by the name of Israel Gow, and was
the one silent servant on that deserted estate. But the energy with
which he dug potatoes, and the regularity with which he disappeared
into the kitchen gave people an impression that he was providing for the
meals of a superior, and that the strange earl was still concealed in
the castle. If society needed any further proof that he was there, the
servant persistently asserted that he was not at home. One morning the
provost and the minister (for the Glengyles were Presbyterian) were
summoned to the castle. There they found that the gardener, groom and
cook had added to his many professions that of an undertaker, and had
nailed up his noble master in a coffin. With how much or how little
further inquiry this odd fact was passed, did not as yet very plainly
appear; for the thing had never been legally investigated till Flambeau
had gone north two or three days before. By then the body of Lord
Glengyle (if it was the body) had lain for some time in the little
churchyard on the hill.
As Father Brown passed through the dim garden and came under the
shadow of the chateau, the clouds were thick and the whole air damp
and thundery. Against the last stripe of the green-gold sunset he saw
a black human silhouette; a man in a chimney-pot hat, with a big spade
over his shoulder. The combination was queerly suggestive of a sexton;
but when Brown remembered the deaf servant who dug potatoes, he thought
it natural enough. He knew something of the Scotch peasant; he knew the
respectability which might well feel it necessary to wear "blacks" for
an official inquiry; he knew also the economy that would not lose an
hour's digging for that. Even the man's start and suspicious stare as
the priest went by were consonant enough with the vigilance and jealousy
of such a type.
The great door was opened by Flambeau himself, who had with him a lean
man with iron-grey hair and papers in his hand: Inspector Craven from
Scotland Yard. The entrance hall was mostly stripped and empty; but the
pale, sneering faces of one or two of the wicked Ogilvies looked down
out of black periwigs and blackening canvas.
Following them into an inner room, Father Brown found that the allies
had been seated at a long oak table, of which their end was covered with
scribbled papers, flanked with whisky and cigars. Through the whole of
its remaining length it was occupied by detached objects arranged at
intervals; objects about as inexplicable as any objects could be. One
looked like a small heap of glittering broken glass. Another looked like
a high heap of brown dust. A third appeared to be a plain stick of wood.
"You seem to have a sort of geological museum here," he said, as he sat
down, jerking his head briefly in the direction of the brown dust and
the crystalline fragments.
"Not a geological museum," replied Flambeau; "say a psychological
"Oh, for the Lord's sake," cried the police detective laughing, "don't
let's begin with such long words."
"Don't you know what psychology means?" asked Flambeau with friendly
surprise. "Psychology means being off your chump."
"Still I hardly follow," replied the official.
"Well," said Flambeau, with decision, "I mean that we've only found out
one thing about Lord Glengyle. He was a maniac."
The black silhouette of Gow with his top hat and spade passed the
window, dimly outlined against the darkening sky. Father Brown stared
passively at it and answered:
"I can understand there must have been something odd about the man, or
he wouldn't have buried himself alive--nor been in such a hurry to bury
himself dead. But what makes you think it was lunacy?"
"Well," said Flambeau, "you just listen to the list of things Mr. Craven
has found in the house."
"We must get a candle," said Craven, suddenly. "A storm is getting up,
and it's too dark to read."
"Have you found any candles," asked Brown smiling, "among your
Flambeau raised a grave face, and fixed his dark eyes on his friend.
"That is curious, too," he said. "Twenty-five candles, and not a trace
of a candlestick."
In the rapidly darkening room and rapidly rising wind, Brown went along
the table to where a bundle of wax candles lay among the other scrappy
exhibits. As he did so he bent accidentally over the heap of red-brown
dust; and a sharp sneeze cracked the silence.
"Hullo!" he said, "snuff!"
He took one of the candles, lit it carefully, came back and stuck it in
the neck of the whisky bottle. The unrestful night air, blowing through
the crazy window, waved the long flame like a banner. And on every side
of the castle they could hear the miles and miles of black pine wood
seething like a black sea around a rock.
"I will read the inventory," began Craven gravely, picking up one of
the papers, "the inventory of what we found loose and unexplained in the
castle. You are to understand that the place generally was dismantled
and neglected; but one or two rooms had plainly been inhabited in a
simple but not squalid style by somebody; somebody who was not the
servant Gow. The list is as follows:
"First item. A very considerable hoard of precious stones, nearly
all diamonds, and all of them loose, without any setting whatever. Of
course, it is natural that the Ogilvies should have family jewels; but
those are exactly the jewels that are almost always set in particular
articles of ornament. The Ogilvies would seem to have kept theirs loose
in their pockets, like coppers.
"Second item. Heaps and heaps of loose snuff, not kept in a horn, or
even a pouch, but lying in heaps on the mantelpieces, on the sideboard,
on the piano, anywhere. It looks as if the old gentleman would not take
the trouble to look in a pocket or lift a lid.
"Third item. Here and there about the house curious little heaps of
minute pieces of metal, some like steel springs and some in the form of
microscopic wheels. As if they had gutted some mechanical toy.
"Fourth item. The wax candles, which have to be stuck in bottle necks
because there is nothing else to stick them in. Now I wish you to note
how very much queerer all this is than anything we anticipated. For the
central riddle we are prepared; we have all seen at a glance that there
was something wrong about the last earl. We have come here to find out
whether he really lived here, whether he really died here, whether that
red-haired scarecrow who did his burying had anything to do with his
dying. But suppose the worst in all this, the most lurid or melodramatic
solution you like. Suppose the servant really killed the master, or
suppose the master isn't really dead, or suppose the master is dressed
up as the servant, or suppose the servant is buried for the master;
invent what Wilkie Collins' tragedy you like, and you still have not
explained a candle without a candlestick, or why an elderly gentleman of
good family should habitually spill snuff on the piano. The core of
the tale we could imagine; it is the fringes that are mysterious. By no
stretch of fancy can the human mind connect together snuff and diamonds
and wax and loose clockwork."
"I think I see the connection," said the priest. "This Glengyle was
mad against the French Revolution. He was an enthusiast for the ancien
regime, and was trying to re-enact literally the family life of the last
Bourbons. He had snuff because it was the eighteenth century luxury;
wax candles, because they were the eighteenth century lighting; the
mechanical bits of iron represent the locksmith hobby of Louis XVI; the
diamonds are for the Diamond Necklace of Marie Antoinette."
Both the other men were staring at him with round eyes. "What a
perfectly extraordinary notion!" cried Flambeau. "Do you really think
that is the truth?"
"I am perfectly sure it isn't," answered Father Brown, "only you said
that nobody could connect snuff and diamonds and clockwork and candles.
I give you that connection off-hand. The real truth, I am very sure,
He paused a moment and listened to the wailing of the wind in the
turrets. Then he said, "The late Earl of Glengyle was a thief. He lived
a second and darker life as a desperate housebreaker. He did not have
any candlesticks because he only used these candles cut short in the
little lantern he carried. The snuff he employed as the fiercest French
criminals have used pepper: to fling it suddenly in dense masses in
the face of a captor or pursuer. But the final proof is in the curious
coincidence of the diamonds and the small steel wheels. Surely that
makes everything plain to you? Diamonds and small steel wheels are the
only two instruments with which you can cut out a pane of glass."
The bough of a broken pine tree lashed heavily in the blast against the
windowpane behind them, as if in parody of a burglar, but they did not
turn round. Their eyes were fastened on Father Brown.
"Diamonds and small wheels," repeated Craven ruminating. "Is that all
that makes you think it the true explanation?"
"I don't think it the true explanation," replied the priest placidly;
"but you said that nobody could connect the four things. The true
tale, of course, is something much more humdrum. Glengyle had found,
or thought he had found, precious stones on his estate. Somebody had
bamboozled him with those loose brilliants, saying they were found in
the castle caverns. The little wheels are some diamond-cutting affair.
He had to do the thing very roughly and in a small way, with the help of
a few shepherds or rude fellows on these hills. Snuff is the one great
luxury of such Scotch shepherds; it's the one thing with which you can
bribe them. They didn't have candlesticks because they didn't want them;
they held the candles in their hands when they explored the caves."
"Is that all?" asked Flambeau after a long pause. "Have we got to the
dull truth at last?"
"Oh, no," said Father Brown.
As the wind died in the most distant pine woods with a long hoot as of
mockery Father Brown, with an utterly impassive face, went on:
"I only suggested that because you said one could not plausibly
connect snuff with clockwork or candles with bright stones. Ten false
philosophies will fit the universe; ten false theories will fit Glengyle
Castle. But we want the real explanation of the castle and the universe.
But are there no other exhibits?"
Craven laughed, and Flambeau rose smiling to his feet and strolled down
the long table.
"Items five, six, seven, etc.," he said, "and certainly more varied than
instructive. A curious collection, not of lead pencils, but of the lead
out of lead pencils. A senseless stick of bamboo, with the top rather
splintered. It might be the instrument of the crime. Only, there isn't
any crime. The only other things are a few old missals and little
Catholic pictures, which the Ogilvies kept, I suppose, from the Middle
Ages--their family pride being stronger than their Puritanism. We
only put them in the museum because they seem curiously cut about and
The heady tempest without drove a dreadful wrack of clouds across
Glengyle and threw the long room into darkness as Father Brown picked up
the little illuminated pages to examine them. He spoke before the drift
of darkness had passed; but it was the voice of an utterly new man.
"Mr. Craven," said he, talking like a man ten years younger, "you have
got a legal warrant, haven't you, to go up and examine that grave?
The sooner we do it the better, and get to the bottom of this horrible
affair. If I were you I should start now."
"Now," repeated the astonished detective, "and why now?"
"Because this is serious," answered Brown; "this is not spilt snuff or
loose pebbles, that might be there for a hundred reasons. There is only
one reason I know of for this being done; and the reason goes down to
the roots of the world. These religious pictures are not just dirtied
or torn or scrawled over, which might be done in idleness or bigotry, by
children or by Protestants. These have been treated very carefully--and
very queerly. In every place where the great ornamented name of God
comes in the old illuminations it has been elaborately taken out. The
only other thing that has been removed is the halo round the head of the
Child Jesus. Therefore, I say, let us get our warrant and our spade and
our hatchet, and go up and break open that coffin."
"What do you mean?" demanded the London officer.
"I mean," answered the little priest, and his voice seemed to rise
slightly in the roar of the gale. "I mean that the great devil of the
universe may be sitting on the top tower of this castle at this moment,
as big as a hundred elephants, and roaring like the Apocalypse. There is
black magic somewhere at the bottom of this."
"Black magic," repeated Flambeau in a low voice, for he was too
enlightened a man not to know of such things; "but what can these other
"Oh, something damnable, I suppose," replied Brown impatiently. "How
should I know? How can I guess all their mazes down below? Perhaps you
can make a torture out of snuff and bamboo. Perhaps lunatics lust after
wax and steel filings. Perhaps there is a maddening drug made of lead
pencils! Our shortest cut to the mystery is up the hill to the grave."
His comrades hardly knew that they had obeyed and followed him till a
blast of the night wind nearly flung them on their faces in the garden.
Nevertheless they had obeyed him like automata; for Craven found
a hatchet in his hand, and the warrant in his pocket; Flambeau was
carrying the heavy spade of the strange gardener; Father Brown was
carrying the little gilt book from which had been torn the name of God.
The path up the hill to the churchyard was crooked but short; only under
that stress of wind it seemed laborious and long. Far as the eye could
see, farther and farther as they mounted the slope, were seas beyond
seas of pines, now all aslope one way under the wind. And that universal
gesture seemed as vain as it was vast, as vain as if that wind were
whistling about some unpeopled and purposeless planet. Through all that
infinite growth of grey-blue forests sang, shrill and high, that ancient
sorrow that is in the heart of all heathen things. One could fancy that
the voices from the under world of unfathomable foliage were cries of
the lost and wandering pagan gods: gods who had gone roaming in that
irrational forest, and who will never find their way back to heaven.
"You see," said Father Brown in low but easy tone, "Scotch people before
Scotland existed were a curious lot. In fact, they're a curious lot
still. But in the prehistoric times I fancy they really worshipped
demons. That," he added genially, "is why they jumped at the Puritan
"My friend," said Flambeau, turning in a kind of fury, "what does all
that snuff mean?"
"My friend," replied Brown, with equal seriousness, "there is one mark
of all genuine religions: materialism. Now, devil-worship is a perfectly
They had come up on the grassy scalp of the hill, one of the few bald
spots that stood clear of the crashing and roaring pine forest. A mean
enclosure, partly timber and partly wire, rattled in the tempest to tell
them the border of the graveyard. But by the time Inspector Craven had
come to the corner of the grave, and Flambeau had planted his spade
point downwards and leaned on it, they were both almost as shaken as the
shaky wood and wire. At the foot of the grave grew great tall
thistles, grey and silver in their decay. Once or twice, when a ball
of thistledown broke under the breeze and flew past him, Craven jumped
slightly as if it had been an arrow.
Flambeau drove the blade of his spade through the whistling grass into
the wet clay below. Then he seemed to stop and lean on it as on a staff.
"Go on," said the priest very gently. "We are only trying to find the
truth. What are you afraid of?"
"I am afraid of finding it," said Flambeau.
The London detective spoke suddenly in a high crowing voice that was
meant to be conversational and cheery. "I wonder why he really did hide
himself like that. Something nasty, I suppose; was he a leper?"
"Something worse than that," said Flambeau.
"And what do you imagine," asked the other, "would be worse than a
"I don't imagine it," said Flambeau.
He dug for some dreadful minutes in silence, and then said in a choked
voice, "I'm afraid of his not being the right shape."
"Nor was that piece of paper, you know," said Father Brown quietly, "and
we survived even that piece of paper."
Flambeau dug on with a blind energy. But the tempest had shouldered away
the choking grey clouds that clung to the hills like smoke and revealed
grey fields of faint starlight before he cleared the shape of a rude
timber coffin, and somehow tipped it up upon the turf. Craven stepped
forward with his axe; a thistle-top touched him, and he flinched. Then
he took a firmer stride, and hacked and wrenched with an energy like
Flambeau's till the lid was torn off, and all that was there lay
glimmering in the grey starlight.
"Bones," said Craven; and then he added, "but it is a man," as if that
were something unexpected.
"Is he," asked Flambeau in a voice that went oddly up and down, "is he
"Seems so," said the officer huskily, bending over the obscure and
decaying skeleton in the box. "Wait a minute."
A vast heave went over Flambeau's huge figure. "And now I come to think
of it," he cried, "why in the name of madness shouldn't he be all right?
What is it gets hold of a man on these cursed cold mountains? I think
it's the black, brainless repetition; all these forests, and over all
an ancient horror of unconsciousness. It's like the dream of an atheist.
Pine-trees and more pine-trees and millions more pine-trees--"
"God!" cried the man by the coffin, "but he hasn't got a head."
While the others stood rigid the priest, for the first time, showed a
leap of startled concern.
"No head!" he repeated. "No head?" as if he had almost expected some
Half-witted visions of a headless baby born to Glengyle, of a headless
youth hiding himself in the castle, of a headless man pacing those
ancient halls or that gorgeous garden, passed in panorama through their
minds. But even in that stiffened instant the tale took no root in them
and seemed to have no reason in it. They stood listening to the loud
woods and the shrieking sky quite foolishly, like exhausted animals.
Thought seemed to be something enormous that had suddenly slipped out of
"There are three headless men," said Father Brown, "standing round this
The pale detective from London opened his mouth to speak, and left it
open like a yokel, while a long scream of wind tore the sky; then he
looked at the axe in his hands as if it did not belong to him, and
"Father," said Flambeau in that infantile and heavy voice he used very
seldom, "what are we to do?"
His friend's reply came with the pent promptitude of a gun going off.
"Sleep!" cried Father Brown. "Sleep. We have come to the end of the
ways. Do you know what sleep is? Do you know that every man who sleeps
believes in God? It is a sacrament; for it is an act of faith and it is
a food. And we need a sacrament, if only a natural one. Something has
fallen on us that falls very seldom on men; perhaps the worst thing that
can fall on them."
Craven's parted lips came together to say, "What do you mean?"
The priest had turned his face to the castle as he answered: "We have
found the truth; and the truth makes no sense."
He went down the path in front of them with a plunging and reckless
step very rare with him, and when they reached the castle again he threw
himself upon sleep with the simplicity of a dog.
Despite his mystic praise of slumber, Father Brown was up earlier than
anyone else except the silent gardener; and was found smoking a big
pipe and watching that expert at his speechless labours in the kitchen
garden. Towards daybreak the rocking storm had ended in roaring rains,
and the day came with a curious freshness. The gardener seemed even
to have been conversing, but at sight of the detectives he planted
his spade sullenly in a bed and, saying something about his breakfast,
shifted along the lines of cabbages and shut himself in the kitchen.
"He's a valuable man, that," said Father Brown. "He does the potatoes
amazingly. Still," he added, with a dispassionate charity, "he has his
faults; which of us hasn't? He doesn't dig this bank quite regularly.
There, for instance," and he stamped suddenly on one spot. "I'm really
very doubtful about that potato."
"And why?" asked Craven, amused with the little man's hobby.
"I'm doubtful about it," said the other, "because old Gow was doubtful
about it himself. He put his spade in methodically in every place but
just this. There must be a mighty fine potato just here."
Flambeau pulled up the spade and impetuously drove it into the place.
He turned up, under a load of soil, something that did not look like a
potato, but rather like a monstrous, over-domed mushroom. But it struck
the spade with a cold click; it rolled over like a ball, and grinned up
"The Earl of Glengyle," said Brown sadly, and looked down heavily at the
Then, after a momentary meditation, he plucked the spade from Flambeau,
and, saying "We must hide it again," clamped the skull down in the
earth. Then he leaned his little body and huge head on the great handle
of the spade, that stood up stiffly in the earth, and his eyes were
empty and his forehead full of wrinkles. "If one could only conceive,"
he muttered, "the meaning of this last monstrosity." And leaning on
the large spade handle, he buried his brows in his hands, as men do in
All the corners of the sky were brightening into blue and silver; the
birds were chattering in the tiny garden trees; so loud it seemed as if
the trees themselves were talking. But the three men were silent enough.
"Well, I give it all up," said Flambeau at last boisterously. "My brain
and this world don't fit each other; and there's an end of it. Snuff,
spoilt Prayer Books, and the insides of musical boxes--what--"
Brown threw up his bothered brow and rapped on the spade handle with an
intolerance quite unusual with him. "Oh, tut, tut, tut, tut!" he
cried. "All that is as plain as a pikestaff. I understood the snuff
and clockwork, and so on, when I first opened my eyes this morning. And
since then I've had it out with old Gow, the gardener, who is neither so
deaf nor so stupid as he pretends. There's nothing amiss about the loose
items. I was wrong about the torn mass-book, too; there's no harm in
that. But it's this last business. Desecrating graves and stealing dead
men's heads--surely there's harm in that? Surely there's black magic
still in that? That doesn't fit in to the quite simple story of the
snuff and the candles." And, striding about again, he smoked moodily.
"My friend," said Flambeau, with a grim humour, "you must be careful
with me and remember I was once a criminal. The great advantage of that
estate was that I always made up the story myself, and acted it as quick
as I chose. This detective business of waiting about is too much for my
French impatience. All my life, for good or evil, I have done things at
the instant; I always fought duels the next morning; I always paid bills
on the nail; I never even put off a visit to the dentist--"
Father Brown's pipe fell out of his mouth and broke into three pieces
on the gravel path. He stood rolling his eyes, the exact picture of
an idiot. "Lord, what a turnip I am!" he kept saying. "Lord, what a
turnip!" Then, in a somewhat groggy kind of way, he began to laugh.
"The dentist!" he repeated. "Six hours in the spiritual abyss, and all
because I never thought of the dentist! Such a simple, such a beautiful
and peaceful thought! Friends, we have passed a night in hell; but now
the sun is risen, the birds are singing, and the radiant form of the
dentist consoles the world."
"I will get some sense out of this," cried Flambeau, striding forward,
"if I use the tortures of the Inquisition."
Father Brown repressed what appeared to be a momentary disposition to
dance on the now sunlit lawn and cried quite piteously, like a child,
"Oh, let me be silly a little. You don't know how unhappy I have been.
And now I know that there has been no deep sin in this business at all.
Only a little lunacy, perhaps--and who minds that?"
He spun round once more, then faced them with gravity.
"This is not a story of crime," he said; "rather it is the story of a
strange and crooked honesty. We are dealing with the one man on earth,
perhaps, who has taken no more than his due. It is a study in the savage
living logic that has been the religion of this race.
"That old local rhyme about the house of Glengyle--
As green sap to the simmer trees
Is red gold to the Ogilvies--
was literal as well as metaphorical. It did not merely mean that the
Glengyles sought for wealth; it was also true that they literally
gathered gold; they had a huge collection of ornaments and utensils in
that metal. They were, in fact, misers whose mania took that turn.
In the light of that fact, run through all the things we found in the
castle. Diamonds without their gold rings; candles without their gold
candlesticks; snuff without the gold snuff-boxes; pencil-leads without
the gold pencil-cases; a walking stick without its gold top; clockwork
without the gold clocks--or rather watches. And, mad as it sounds,
because the halos and the name of God in the old missals were of real
gold; these also were taken away."
The garden seemed to brighten, the grass to grow gayer in the
strengthening sun, as the crazy truth was told. Flambeau lit a cigarette
as his friend went on.
"Were taken away," continued Father Brown; "were taken away--but not
stolen. Thieves would never have left this mystery. Thieves would have
taken the gold snuff-boxes, snuff and all; the gold pencil-cases, lead
and all. We have to deal with a man with a peculiar conscience, but
certainly a conscience. I found that mad moralist this morning in the
kitchen garden yonder, and I heard the whole story.
"The late Archibald Ogilvie was the nearest approach to a good man
ever born at Glengyle. But his bitter virtue took the turn of the
misanthrope; he moped over the dishonesty of his ancestors, from which,
somehow, he generalised a dishonesty of all men. More especially he
distrusted philanthropy or free-giving; and he swore if he could
find one man who took his exact rights he should have all the gold of
Glengyle. Having delivered this defiance to humanity he shut himself
up, without the smallest expectation of its being answered. One day,
however, a deaf and seemingly senseless lad from a distant village
brought him a belated telegram; and Glengyle, in his acrid pleasantry,
gave him a new farthing. At least he thought he had done so, but when
he turned over his change he found the new farthing still there and a
sovereign gone. The accident offered him vistas of sneering speculation.
Either way, the boy would show the greasy greed of the species. Either
he would vanish, a thief stealing a coin; or he would sneak back with
it virtuously, a snob seeking a reward. In the middle of that night Lord
Glengyle was knocked up out of his bed--for he lived alone--and forced
to open the door to the deaf idiot. The idiot brought with him, not
the sovereign, but exactly nineteen shillings and eleven-pence
three-farthings in change.
"Then the wild exactitude of this action took hold of the mad lord's
brain like fire. He swore he was Diogenes, that had long sought an
honest man, and at last had found one. He made a new will, which I have
seen. He took the literal youth into his huge, neglected house, and
trained him up as his solitary servant and--after an odd manner--his
heir. And whatever that queer creature understands, he understood
absolutely his lord's two fixed ideas: first, that the letter of right
is everything; and second, that he himself was to have the gold of
Glengyle. So far, that is all; and that is simple. He has stripped the
house of gold, and taken not a grain that was not gold; not so much as
a grain of snuff. He lifted the gold leaf off an old illumination, fully
satisfied that he left the rest unspoilt. All that I understood; but I
could not understand this skull business. I was really uneasy about that
human head buried among the potatoes. It distressed me--till Flambeau
said the word.
"It will be all right. He will put the skull back in the grave, when he
has taken the gold out of the tooth."
And, indeed, when Flambeau crossed the hill that morning, he saw that
strange being, the just miser, digging at the desecrated grave, the
plaid round his throat thrashing out in the mountain wind; the sober top
hat on his head.
The Wrong Shape
Certain of the great roads going north out of London continue far into
the country a sort of attenuated and interrupted spectre of a street,
with great gaps in the building, but preserving the line. Here will be a
group of shops, followed by a fenced field or paddock, and then a famous
public-house, and then perhaps a market garden or a nursery garden, and
then one large private house, and then another field and another inn,
and so on. If anyone walks along one of these roads he will pass a house
which will probably catch his eye, though he may not be able to explain
its attraction. It is a long, low house, running parallel with the road,
painted mostly white and pale green, with a veranda and sun-blinds, and
porches capped with those quaint sort of cupolas like wooden umbrellas
that one sees in some old-fashioned houses. In fact, it is an
old-fashioned house, very English and very suburban in the good old
wealthy Clapham sense. And yet the house has a look of having been built
chiefly for the hot weather. Looking at its white paint and sun-blinds
one thinks vaguely of pugarees and even of palm trees. I cannot trace
the feeling to its root; perhaps the place was built by an Anglo-Indian.
Anyone passing this house, I say, would be namelessly fascinated by it;
would feel that it was a place about which some story was to be told.
And he would have been right, as you shall shortly hear. For this is the
story--the story of the strange things that did really happen in it in
the Whitsuntide of the year 18--:
Anyone passing the house on the Thursday before Whit-Sunday at about
half-past four p.m. would have seen the front door open, and Father
Brown, of the small church of St. Mungo, come out smoking a large pipe
in company with a very tall French friend of his called Flambeau, who
was smoking a very small cigarette. These persons may or may not be of
interest to the reader, but the truth is that they were not the only
interesting things that were displayed when the front door of the
white-and-green house was opened. There are further peculiarities about
this house, which must be described to start with, not only that the
reader may understand this tragic tale, but also that he may realise
what it was that the opening of the door revealed.
The whole house was built upon the plan of a T, but a T with a very long
cross piece and a very short tail piece. The long cross piece was the
frontage that ran along in face of the street, with the front door
in the middle; it was two stories high, and contained nearly all
the important rooms. The short tail piece, which ran out at the back
immediately opposite the front door, was one story high, and consisted
only of two long rooms, the one leading into the other. The first of
these two rooms was the study in which the celebrated Mr. Quinton wrote
his wild Oriental poems and romances. The farther room was a glass
conservatory full of tropical blossoms of quite unique and almost
monstrous beauty, and on such afternoons as these glowing with gorgeous
sunlight. Thus when the hall door was open, many a passer-by literally
stopped to stare and gasp; for he looked down a perspective of rich
apartments to something really like a transformation scene in a fairy
play: purple clouds and golden suns and crimson stars that were at once
scorchingly vivid and yet transparent and far away.
Leonard Quinton, the poet, had himself most carefully arranged this
effect; and it is doubtful whether he so perfectly expressed his
personality in any of his poems. For he was a man who drank and bathed
in colours, who indulged his lust for colour somewhat to the neglect
of form--even of good form. This it was that had turned his genius
so wholly to eastern art and imagery; to those bewildering carpets
or blinding embroideries in which all the colours seem fallen into a
fortunate chaos, having nothing to typify or to teach. He had attempted,
not perhaps with complete artistic success, but with acknowledged
imagination and invention, to compose epics and love stories reflecting
the riot of violent and even cruel colour; tales of tropical heavens
of burning gold or blood-red copper; of eastern heroes who rode with
twelve-turbaned mitres upon elephants painted purple or peacock green;
of gigantic jewels that a hundred negroes could not carry, but which
burned with ancient and strange-hued fires.
In short (to put the matter from the more common point of view), he
dealt much in eastern heavens, rather worse than most western hells; in
eastern monarchs, whom we might possibly call maniacs; and in eastern
jewels which a Bond Street jeweller (if the hundred staggering negroes
brought them into his shop) might possibly not regard as genuine.
Quinton was a genius, if a morbid one; and even his morbidity appeared
more in his life than in his work. In temperament he was weak and
waspish, and his health had suffered heavily from oriental experiments
with opium. His wife--a handsome, hard-working, and, indeed, over-worked
woman objected to the opium, but objected much more to a live Indian
hermit in white and yellow robes, whom her husband insisted on
entertaining for months together, a Virgil to guide his spirit through
the heavens and the hells of the east.
It was out of this artistic household that Father Brown and his friend
stepped on to the door-step; and to judge from their faces, they stepped
out of it with much relief. Flambeau had known Quinton in wild student
days in Paris, and they had renewed the acquaintance for a week-end; but
apart from Flambeau's more responsible developments of late, he did not
get on well with the poet now. Choking oneself with opium and writing
little erotic verses on vellum was not his notion of how a gentleman
should go to the devil. As the two paused on the door-step, before
taking a turn in the garden, the front garden gate was thrown open with
violence, and a young man with a billycock hat on the back of his head
tumbled up the steps in his eagerness. He was a dissipated-looking youth
with a gorgeous red necktie all awry, as if he had slept in it, and he
kept fidgeting and lashing about with one of those little jointed canes.
"I say," he said breathlessly, "I want to see old Quinton. I must see
him. Has he gone?"
"Mr. Quinton is in, I believe," said Father Brown, cleaning his pipe,
"but I do not know if you can see him. The doctor is with him at
The young man, who seemed not to be perfectly sober, stumbled into the
hall; and at the same moment the doctor came out of Quinton's study,
shutting the door and beginning to put on his gloves.
"See Mr. Quinton?" said the doctor coolly. "No, I'm afraid you can't. In
fact, you mustn't on any account. Nobody must see him; I've just given
him his sleeping draught."
"No, but look here, old chap," said the youth in the red tie, trying
affectionately to capture the doctor by the lapels of his coat. "Look
here. I'm simply sewn up, I tell you. I--"
"It's no good, Mr. Atkinson," said the doctor, forcing him to fall back;
"when you can alter the effects of a drug I'll alter my decision," and,
settling on his hat, he stepped out into the sunlight with the other
two. He was a bull-necked, good-tempered little man with a small
moustache, inexpressibly ordinary, yet giving an impression of capacity.
The young man in the billycock, who did not seem to be gifted with any
tact in dealing with people beyond the general idea of clutching hold of
their coats, stood outside the door, as dazed as if he had been thrown
out bodily, and silently watched the other three walk away together
through the garden.
"That was a sound, spanking lie I told just now," remarked the medical
man, laughing. "In point of fact, poor Quinton doesn't have his sleeping
draught for nearly half an hour. But I'm not going to have him bothered
with that little beast, who only wants to borrow money that he wouldn't
pay back if he could. He's a dirty little scamp, though he is Mrs.
Quinton's brother, and she's as fine a woman as ever walked."
"Yes," said Father Brown. "She's a good woman."
"So I propose to hang about the garden till the creature has cleared
off," went on the doctor, "and then I'll go in to Quinton with the
medicine. Atkinson can't get in, because I locked the door."
"In that case, Dr. Harris," said Flambeau, "we might as well walk round
at the back by the end of the conservatory. There's no entrance to it
that way, but it's worth seeing, even from the outside."
"Yes, and I might get a squint at my patient," laughed the doctor, "for
he prefers to lie on an ottoman right at the end of the conservatory
amid all those blood-red poinsettias; it would give me the creeps. But
what are you doing?"
Father Brown had stopped for a moment, and picked up out of the long
grass, where it had almost been wholly hidden, a queer, crooked Oriental
knife, inlaid exquisitely in coloured stones and metals.
"What is this?" asked Father Brown, regarding it with some disfavour.
"Oh, Quinton's, I suppose," said Dr. Harris carelessly; "he has all
sorts of Chinese knickknacks about the place. Or perhaps it belongs to
that mild Hindoo of his whom he keeps on a string."
"What Hindoo?" asked Father Brown, still staring at the dagger in his
"Oh, some Indian conjuror," said the doctor lightly; "a fraud, of
"You don't believe in magic?" asked Father Brown, without looking up.
"O crickey! magic!" said the doctor.
"It's very beautiful," said the priest in a low, dreaming voice; "the
colours are very beautiful. But it's the wrong shape."
"What for?" asked Flambeau, staring.
"For anything. It's the wrong shape in the abstract. Don't you ever feel
that about Eastern art? The colours are intoxicatingly lovely; but the
shapes are mean and bad--deliberately mean and bad. I have seen wicked
things in a Turkey carpet."
"Mon Dieu!" cried Flambeau, laughing.
"They are letters and symbols in a language I don't know; but I know
they stand for evil words," went on the priest, his voice growing lower
and lower. "The lines go wrong on purpose--like serpents doubling to
"What the devil are you talking about?" said the doctor with a loud
Flambeau spoke quietly to him in answer. "The Father sometimes gets this
mystic's cloud on him," he said; "but I give you fair warning that I
have never known him to have it except when there was some evil quite
"Oh, rats!" said the scientist.
"Why, look at it," cried Father Brown, holding out the crooked knife at
arm's length, as if it were some glittering snake. "Don't you see it is
the wrong shape? Don't you see that it has no hearty and plain purpose?
It does not point like a spear. It does not sweep like a scythe. It does
not look like a weapon. It looks like an instrument of torture."
"Well, as you don't seem to like it," said the jolly Harris, "it had
better be taken back to its owner. Haven't we come to the end of this
confounded conservatory yet? This house is the wrong shape, if you
"You don't understand," said Father Brown, shaking his head. "The shape
of this house is quaint--it is even laughable. But there is nothing
wrong about it."
As they spoke they came round the curve of glass that ended the
conservatory, an uninterrupted curve, for there was neither door nor
window by which to enter at that end. The glass, however, was clear, and
the sun still bright, though beginning to set; and they could see not
only the flamboyant blossoms inside, but the frail figure of the poet
in a brown velvet coat lying languidly on the sofa, having, apparently,
fallen half asleep over a book. He was a pale, slight man, with loose,
chestnut hair and a fringe of beard that was the paradox of his face,
for the beard made him look less manly. These traits were well known
to all three of them; but even had it not been so, it may be doubted
whether they would have looked at Quinton just then. Their eyes were
riveted on another object.
Exactly in their path, immediately outside the round end of the glass
building, was standing a tall man, whose drapery fell to his feet in
faultless white, and whose bare, brown skull, face, and neck gleamed in
the setting sun like splendid bronze. He was looking through the glass
at the sleeper, and he was more motionless than a mountain.
"Who is that?" cried Father Brown, stepping back with a hissing intake
of his breath.
"Oh, it is only that Hindoo humbug," growled Harris; "but I don't know
what the deuce he's doing here."
"It looks like hypnotism," said Flambeau, biting his black moustache.
"Why are you unmedical fellows always talking bosh about hypnotism?"
cried the doctor. "It looks a deal more like burglary."
"Well, we will speak to it, at any rate," said Flambeau, who was always
for action. One long stride took him to the place where the Indian
stood. Bowing from his great height, which overtopped even the
Oriental's, he said with placid impudence:
"Good evening, sir. Do you want anything?"
Quite slowly, like a great ship turning into a harbour, the great yellow
face turned, and looked at last over its white shoulder. They were
startled to see that its yellow eyelids were quite sealed, as in sleep.
"Thank you," said the face in excellent English. "I want nothing." Then,
half opening the lids, so as to show a slit of opalescent eyeball,
he repeated, "I want nothing." Then he opened his eyes wide with a
startling stare, said, "I want nothing," and went rustling away into the
rapidly darkening garden.
"The Christian is more modest," muttered Father Brown; "he wants
"What on earth was he doing?" asked Flambeau, knitting his black brows
and lowering his voice.
"I should like to talk to you later," said Father Brown.
The sunlight was still a reality, but it was the red light of evening,
and the bulk of the garden trees and bushes grew blacker and blacker
against it. They turned round the end of the conservatory, and walked in
silence down the other side to get round to the front door. As they went
they seemed to wake something, as one startles a bird, in the deeper
corner between the study and the main building; and again they saw the
white-robed fakir slide out of the shadow, and slip round towards the
front door. To their surprise, however, he had not been alone.
They found themselves abruptly pulled up and forced to banish their
bewilderment by the appearance of Mrs. Quinton, with her heavy golden
hair and square pale face, advancing on them out of the twilight. She
looked a little stern, but was entirely courteous.
"Good evening, Dr. Harris," was all she said.
"Good evening, Mrs. Quinton," said the little doctor heartily. "I am
just going to give your husband his sleeping draught."
"Yes," she said in a clear voice. "I think it is quite time." And she
smiled at them, and went sweeping into the house.
"That woman's over-driven," said Father Brown; "that's the kind of woman
that does her duty for twenty years, and then does something dreadful."
The little doctor looked at him for the first time with an eye of
interest. "Did you ever study medicine?" he asked.
"You have to know something of the mind as well as the body," answered
the priest; "we have to know something of the body as well as the mind."
"Well," said the doctor, "I think I'll go and give Quinton his stuff."
They had turned the corner of the front facade, and were approaching the
front doorway. As they turned into it they saw the man in the white robe
for the third time. He came so straight towards the front door that
it seemed quite incredible that he had not just come out of the study
opposite to it. Yet they knew that the study door was locked.
Father Brown and Flambeau, however, kept this weird contradiction to
themselves, and Dr. Harris was not a man to waste his thoughts on the
impossible. He permitted the omnipresent Asiatic to make his exit, and
then stepped briskly into the hall. There he found a figure which he had
already forgotten. The inane Atkinson was still hanging about, humming
and poking things with his knobby cane. The doctor's face had a spasm of
disgust and decision, and he whispered rapidly to his companion: "I must
lock the door again, or this rat will get in. But I shall be out again
in two minutes."
He rapidly unlocked the door and locked it again behind him, just
balking a blundering charge from the young man in the billycock. The
young man threw himself impatiently on a hall chair. Flambeau looked at
a Persian illumination on the wall; Father Brown, who seemed in a sort
of daze, dully eyed the door. In about four minutes the door was opened
again. Atkinson was quicker this time. He sprang forward, held the door
open for an instant, and called out: "Oh, I say, Quinton, I want--"
From the other end of the study came the clear voice of Quinton, in
something between a yawn and a yell of weary laughter.
"Oh, I know what you want. Take it, and leave me in peace. I'm writing a
song about peacocks."
Before the door closed half a sovereign came flying through the
aperture; and Atkinson, stumbling forward, caught it with singular
"So that's settled," said the doctor, and, locking the door savagely, he
led the way out into the garden.
"Poor Leonard can get a little peace now," he added to Father Brown;
"he's locked in all by himself for an hour or two."
"Yes," answered the priest; "and his voice sounded jolly enough when we
left him." Then he looked gravely round the garden, and saw the loose
figure of Atkinson standing and jingling the half-sovereign in his
pocket, and beyond, in the purple twilight, the figure of the Indian
sitting bolt upright upon a bank of grass with his face turned towards
the setting sun. Then he said abruptly: "Where is Mrs. Quinton!"
"She has gone up to her room," said the doctor. "That is her shadow on
Father Brown looked up, and frowningly scrutinised a dark outline at the
"Yes," he said, "that is her shadow," and he walked a yard or two and
threw himself upon a garden seat.
Flambeau sat down beside him; but the doctor was one of those energetic
people who live naturally on their legs. He walked away, smoking, into
the twilight, and the two friends were left together.
"My father," said Flambeau in French, "what is the matter with you?"
Father Brown was silent and motionless for half a minute, then he said:
"Superstition is irreligious, but there is something in the air of this
place. I think it's that Indian--at least, partly."
He sank into silence, and watched the distant outline of the Indian, who
still sat rigid as if in prayer. At first sight he seemed motionless,
but as Father Brown watched him he saw that the man swayed ever so
slightly with a rhythmic movement, just as the dark tree-tops swayed
ever so slightly in the wind that was creeping up the dim garden paths
and shuffling the fallen leaves a little.
The landscape was growing rapidly dark, as if for a storm, but they
could still see all the figures in their various places. Atkinson was
leaning against a tree with a listless face; Quinton's wife was still
at her window; the doctor had gone strolling round the end of the
conservatory; they could see his cigar like a will-o'-the-wisp; and the
fakir still sat rigid and yet rocking, while the trees above him began
to rock and almost to roar. Storm was certainly coming.
"When that Indian spoke to us," went on Brown in a conversational
undertone, "I had a sort of vision, a vision of him and all his
universe. Yet he only said the same thing three times. When first he
said 'I want nothing,' it meant only that he was impenetrable, that Asia
does not give itself away. Then he said again, 'I want nothing,' and
I knew that he meant that he was sufficient to himself, like a cosmos,
that he needed no God, neither admitted any sins. And when he said the
third time, 'I want nothing,' he said it with blazing eyes. And I knew
that he meant literally what he said; that nothing was his desire and
his home; that he was weary for nothing as for wine; that annihilation,
the mere destruction of everything or anything--"
Two drops of rain fell; and for some reason Flambeau started and looked
up, as if they had stung him. And the same instant the doctor down by
the end of the conservatory began running towards them, calling out
something as he ran.
As he came among them like a bombshell the restless Atkinson happened to
be taking a turn nearer to the house front; and the doctor clutched him
by the collar in a convulsive grip. "Foul play!" he cried; "what have
you been doing to him, you dog?"
The priest had sprung erect, and had the voice of steel of a soldier in
"No fighting," he cried coolly; "we are enough to hold anyone we want
to. What is the matter, doctor?"
"Things are not right with Quinton," said the doctor, quite white. "I
could just see him through the glass, and I don't like the way he's
lying. It's not as I left him, anyhow."
"Let us go in to him," said Father Brown shortly. "You can leave Mr.
Atkinson alone. I have had him in sight since we heard Quinton's voice."
"I will stop here and watch him," said Flambeau hurriedly. "You go in
The doctor and the priest flew to the study door, unlocked it, and fell
into the room. In doing so they nearly fell over the large mahogany
table in the centre at which the poet usually wrote; for the place was
lit only by a small fire kept for the invalid. In the middle of this
table lay a single sheet of paper, evidently left there on purpose. The
doctor snatched it up, glanced at it, handed it to Father Brown, and
crying, "Good God, look at that!" plunged toward the glass room beyond,
where the terrible tropic flowers still seemed to keep a crimson memory
of the sunset.
Father Brown read the words three times before he put down the paper.
The words were: "I die by my own hand; yet I die murdered!" They were
in the quite inimitable, not to say illegible, handwriting of Leonard
Then Father Brown, still keeping the paper in his hand, strode towards
the conservatory, only to meet his medical friend coming back with a
face of assurance and collapse. "He's done it," said Harris.
They went together through the gorgeous unnatural beauty of cactus
and azalea and found Leonard Quinton, poet and romancer, with his head
hanging downward off his ottoman and his red curls sweeping the ground.
Into his left side was thrust the queer dagger that they had picked up
in the garden, and his limp hand still rested on the hilt.
Outside the storm had come at one stride, like the night in Coleridge,
and garden and glass roof were darkened with driving rain. Father Brown
seemed to be studying the paper more than the corpse; he held it close
to his eyes; and seemed trying to read it in the twilight. Then he held
it up against the faint light, and, as he did so, lightning stared at
them for an instant so white that the paper looked black against it.
Darkness full of thunder followed, and after the thunder Father Brown's
voice said out of the dark: "Doctor, this paper is the wrong shape."
"What do you mean?" asked Doctor Harris, with a frowning stare.
"It isn't square," answered Brown. "It has a sort of edge snipped off at
the corner. What does it mean?"
"How the deuce should I know?" growled the doctor. "Shall we move this
poor chap, do you think? He's quite dead."
"No," answered the priest; "we must leave him as he lies and send for
the police." But he was still scrutinising the paper.
As they went back through the study he stopped by the table and picked
up a small pair of nail scissors. "Ah," he said, with a sort of relief,
"this is what he did it with. But yet--" And he knitted his brows.
"Oh, stop fooling with that scrap of paper," said the doctor
emphatically. "It was a fad of his. He had hundreds of them. He cut all
his paper like that," as he pointed to a stack of sermon paper still
unused on another and smaller table. Father Brown went up to it and held
up a sheet. It was the same irregular shape.
"Quite so," he said. "And here I see the corners that were snipped off."
And to the indignation of his colleague he began to count them.
"That's all right," he said, with an apologetic smile. "Twenty-three
sheets cut and twenty-two corners cut off them. And as I see you are
impatient we will rejoin the others."
"Who is to tell his wife?" asked Dr. Harris. "Will you go and tell her
now, while I send a servant for the police?"
"As you will," said Father Brown indifferently. And he went out to the
Here also he found a drama, though of a more grotesque sort. It showed
nothing less than his big friend Flambeau in an attitude to which he
had long been unaccustomed, while upon the pathway at the bottom of the
steps was sprawling with his boots in the air the amiable Atkinson, his
billycock hat and walking cane sent flying in opposite directions along
the path. Atkinson had at length wearied of Flambeau's almost paternal
custody, and had endeavoured to knock him down, which was by no means a
smooth game to play with the Roi des Apaches, even after that monarch's
Flambeau was about to leap upon his enemy and secure him once more, when
the priest patted him easily on the shoulder.
"Make it up with Mr. Atkinson, my friend," he said. "Beg a mutual pardon
and say 'Good night.' We need not detain him any longer." Then, as
Atkinson rose somewhat doubtfully and gathered his hat and stick and
went towards the garden gate, Father Brown said in a more serious voice:
"Where is that Indian?"
They all three (for the doctor had joined them) turned involuntarily
towards the dim grassy bank amid the tossing trees purple with twilight,
where they had last seen the brown man swaying in his strange prayers.
The Indian was gone.
"Confound him," cried the doctor, stamping furiously. "Now I know that
it was that nigger that did it."
"I thought you didn't believe in magic," said Father Brown quietly.
"No more I did," said the doctor, rolling his eyes. "I only know that
I loathed that yellow devil when I thought he was a sham wizard. And I
shall loathe him more if I come to think he was a real one."
"Well, his having escaped is nothing," said Flambeau. "For we could
have proved nothing and done nothing against him. One hardly goes to
the parish constable with a story of suicide imposed by witchcraft or
Meanwhile Father Brown had made his way into the house, and now went to
break the news to the wife of the dead man.
When he came out again he looked a little pale and tragic, but what
passed between them in that interview was never known, even when all was
Flambeau, who was talking quietly with the doctor, was surprised to see
his friend reappear so soon at his elbow; but Brown took no notice, and
merely drew the doctor apart. "You have sent for the police, haven't
you?" he asked.
"Yes," answered Harris. "They ought to be here in ten minutes."
"Will you do me a favour?" said the priest quietly. "The truth is, I
make a collection of these curious stories, which often contain, as in
the case of our Hindoo friend, elements which can hardly be put into a
police report. Now, I want you to write out a report of this case for
my private use. Yours is a clever trade," he said, looking the doctor
gravely and steadily in the face. "I sometimes think that you know some
details of this matter which you have not thought fit to mention. Mine
is a confidential trade like yours, and I will treat anything you write
for me in strict confidence. But write the whole."
The doctor, who had been listening thoughtfully with his head a little
on one side, looked the priest in the face for an instant, and said:
"All right," and went into the study, closing the door behind him.
"Flambeau," said Father Brown, "there is a long seat there under the
veranda, where we can smoke out of the rain. You are my only friend in
the world, and I want to talk to you. Or, perhaps, be silent with you."
They established themselves comfortably in the veranda seat; Father
Brown, against his common habit, accepted a good cigar and smoked it
steadily in silence, while the rain shrieked and rattled on the roof of
"My friend," he said at length, "this is a very queer case. A very queer
"I should think it was," said Flambeau, with something like a shudder.
"You call it queer, and I call it queer," said the other, "and yet
we mean quite opposite things. The modern mind always mixes up two
different ideas: mystery in the sense of what is marvellous, and mystery
in the sense of what is complicated. That is half its difficulty about
miracles. A miracle is startling; but it is simple. It is simple because
it is a miracle. It is power coming directly from God (or the devil)
instead of indirectly through nature or human wills. Now, you mean that
this business is marvellous because it is miraculous, because it is
witchcraft worked by a wicked Indian. Understand, I do not say that
it was not spiritual or diabolic. Heaven and hell only know by what
surrounding influences strange sins come into the lives of men. But for
the present my point is this: If it was pure magic, as you think,
then it is marvellous; but it is not mysterious--that is, it is not
complicated. The quality of a miracle is mysterious, but its manner
is simple. Now, the manner of this business has been the reverse of
The storm that had slackened for a little seemed to be swelling again,
and there came heavy movements as of faint thunder. Father Brown let
fall the ash of his cigar and went on:
"There has been in this incident," he said, "a twisted, ugly, complex
quality that does not belong to the straight bolts either of heaven
or hell. As one knows the crooked track of a snail, I know the crooked
track of a man."
The white lightning opened its enormous eye in one wink, the sky shut up
again, and the priest went on:
"Of all these crooked things, the crookedest was the shape of that piece
of paper. It was crookeder than the dagger that killed him."
"You mean the paper on which Quinton confessed his suicide," said
"I mean the paper on which Quinton wrote, 'I die by my own hand,'"
answered Father Brown. "The shape of that paper, my friend, was the
wrong shape; the wrong shape, if ever I have seen it in this wicked
"It only had a corner snipped off," said Flambeau, "and I understand
that all Quinton's paper was cut that way."
"It was a very odd way," said the other, "and a very bad way, to my
taste and fancy. Look here, Flambeau, this Quinton--God receive his
soul!--was perhaps a bit of a cur in some ways, but he really was an
artist, with the pencil as well as the pen. His handwriting, though hard
to read, was bold and beautiful. I can't prove what I say; I can't prove
anything. But I tell you with the full force of conviction that he could
never have cut that mean little piece off a sheet of paper. If he had
wanted to cut down paper for some purpose of fitting in, or binding
up, or what not, he would have made quite a different slash with the
scissors. Do you remember the shape? It was a mean shape. It was a wrong
shape. Like this. Don't you remember?"
And he waved his burning cigar before him in the darkness, making
irregular squares so rapidly that Flambeau really seemed to see them as
fiery hieroglyphics upon the darkness--hieroglyphics such as his friend
had spoken of, which are undecipherable, yet can have no good meaning.
"But," said Flambeau, as the priest put his cigar in his mouth again
and leaned back, staring at the roof, "suppose somebody else did use the
scissors. Why should somebody else, cutting pieces off his sermon paper,
make Quinton commit suicide?"
Father Brown was still leaning back and staring at the roof, but he took
his cigar out of his mouth and said: "Quinton never did commit suicide."
Flambeau stared at him. "Why, confound it all," he cried, "then why did
he confess to suicide?"
The priest leant forward again, settled his elbows on his knees, looked
at the ground, and said, in a low, distinct voice: "He never did confess
Flambeau laid his cigar down. "You mean," he said, "that the writing was
"No," said Father Brown. "Quinton wrote it all right."
"Well, there you are," said the aggravated Flambeau; "Quinton wrote, 'I
die by my own hand,' with his own hand on a plain piece of paper."
"Of the wrong shape," said the priest calmly.
"Oh, the shape be damned!" cried Flambeau. "What has the shape to do
"There were twenty-three snipped papers," resumed Brown unmoved, "and
only twenty-two pieces snipped off. Therefore one of the pieces had
been destroyed, probably that from the written paper. Does that suggest
anything to you?"
A light dawned on Flambeau's face, and he said: "There was something
else written by Quinton, some other words. 'They will tell you I die by
my own hand,' or 'Do not believe that--'"
"Hotter, as the children say," said his friend. "But the piece was
hardly half an inch across; there was no room for one word, let alone
five. Can you think of anything hardly bigger than a comma which the man
with hell in his heart had to tear away as a testimony against him?"
"I can think of nothing," said Flambeau at last.
"What about quotation marks?" said the priest, and flung his cigar far
into the darkness like a shooting star.
All words had left the other man's mouth, and Father Brown said, like
one going back to fundamentals:
"Leonard Quinton was a romancer, and was writing an Oriental romance
about wizardry and hypnotism. He--"
At this moment the door opened briskly behind them, and the doctor came
out with his hat on. He put a long envelope into the priest's hands.
"That's the document you wanted," he said, "and I must be getting home.
"Good night," said Father Brown, as the doctor walked briskly to the
gate. He had left the front door open, so that a shaft of gaslight fell
upon them. In the light of this Brown opened the envelope and read the
DEAR FATHER BROWN,--Vicisti Galilee. Otherwise, damn your
eyes, which are very penetrating ones. Can it be possible that
there is something in all that stuff of yours after all?
I am a man who has ever since boyhood believed in Nature and
in all natural functions and instincts, whether men called them
moral or immoral. Long before I became a doctor, when I was a
schoolboy keeping mice and spiders, I believed that to be a good
animal is the best thing in the world. But just now I am shaken;
I have believed in Nature; but it seems as if Nature could betray
a man. Can there be anything in your bosh? I am really getting
I loved Quinton's wife. What was there wrong in that? Nature
told me to, and it's love that makes the world go round. I also
thought quite sincerely that she would be happier with a clean
animal like me than with that tormenting little lunatic. What was
there wrong in that? I was only facing facts, like a man of
science. She would have been happier.
According to my own creed I was quite free to kill Quinton,
which was the best thing for everybody, even himself. But as a
healthy animal I had no notion of killing myself. I resolved,
therefore, that I would never do it until I saw a chance that
would leave me scot free. I saw that chance this morning.
I have been three times, all told, into Quinton's study today.
The first time I went in he would talk about nothing but the weird
tale, called "The Cure of a Saint," which he was writing, which
was all about how some Indian hermit made an English colonel kill
himself by thinking about him. He showed me the last sheets, and
even read me the last paragraph, which was something like this:
"The conqueror of the Punjab, a mere yellow skeleton, but still
gigantic, managed to lift himself on his elbow and gasp in his
nephew's ear: 'I die by my own hand, yet I die murdered!'" It so
happened by one chance out of a hundred, that those last words
were written at the top of a new sheet of paper. I left the room,
and went out into the garden intoxicated with a frightful
We walked round the house; and two more things happened in my
favour. You suspected an Indian, and you found a dagger which the
Indian might most probably use. Taking the opportunity to stuff
it in my pocket I went back to Quinton's study, locked the door,
and gave him his sleeping draught. He was against answering
Atkinson at all, but I urged him to call out and quiet the fellow,
because I wanted a clear proof that Quinton was alive when I left
the room for the second time. Quinton lay down in the conservatory,
and I came through the study. I am a quick man with my hands, and
in a minute and a half I had done what I wanted to do. I had
emptied all the first part of Quinton's romance into the fireplace,
where it burnt to ashes. Then I saw that the quotation marks
wouldn't do, so I snipped them off, and to make it seem likelier,
snipped the whole quire to match. Then I came out with the
knowledge that Quinton's confession of suicide lay on the front
table, while Quinton lay alive but asleep in the conservatory
The last act was a desperate one; you can guess it: I pretended
to have seen Quinton dead and rushed to his room. I delayed you
with the paper, and, being a quick man with my hands, killed
Quinton while you were looking at his confession of suicide. He
was half-asleep, being drugged, and I put his own hand on the
knife and drove it into his body. The knife was of so queer a
shape that no one but an operator could have calculated the angle
that would reach his heart. I wonder if you noticed this.
When I had done it, the extraordinary thing happened. Nature
deserted me. I felt ill. I felt just as if I had done something
wrong. I think my brain is breaking up; I feel some sort of
desperate pleasure in thinking I have told the thing to somebody;
that I shall not have to be alone with it if I marry and have
children. What is the matter with me?... Madness... or can one
have remorse, just as if one were in Byron's poems! I cannot
write any more.
James Erskine Harris.
Father Brown carefully folded up the letter, and put it in his breast
pocket just as there came a loud peal at the gate bell, and the wet
waterproofs of several policemen gleamed in the road outside.
The Sins of Prince Saradine
When Flambeau took his month's holiday from his office in Westminster
he took it in a small sailing-boat, so small that it passed much of its
time as a rowing-boat. He took it, moreover, in little rivers in the
Eastern counties, rivers so small that the boat looked like a magic
boat, sailing on land through meadows and cornfields. The vessel was
just comfortable for two people; there was room only for necessities,
and Flambeau had stocked it with such things as his special philosophy
considered necessary. They reduced themselves, apparently, to four
essentials: tins of salmon, if he should want to eat; loaded revolvers,
if he should want to fight; a bottle of brandy, presumably in case he
should faint; and a priest, presumably in case he should die. With this
light luggage he crawled down the little Norfolk rivers, intending to
reach the Broads at last, but meanwhile delighting in the overhanging
gardens and meadows, the mirrored mansions or villages, lingering to
fish in the pools and corners, and in some sense hugging the shore.
Like a true philosopher, Flambeau had no aim in his holiday; but, like a
true philosopher, he had an excuse. He had a sort of half purpose, which
he took just so seriously that its success would crown the holiday, but
just so lightly that its failure would not spoil it. Years ago, when he
had been a king of thieves and the most famous figure in Paris, he had
often received wild communications of approval, denunciation, or even
love; but one had, somehow, stuck in his memory. It consisted simply of
a visiting-card, in an envelope with an English postmark. On the back of
the card was written in French and in green ink: "If you ever retire and
become respectable, come and see me. I want to meet you, for I have met
all the other great men of my time. That trick of yours of getting one
detective to arrest the other was the most splendid scene in French
history." On the front of the card was engraved in the formal fashion,
"Prince Saradine, Reed House, Reed Island, Norfolk."
He had not troubled much about the prince then, beyond ascertaining that
he had been a brilliant and fashionable figure in southern Italy. In his
youth, it was said, he had eloped with a married woman of high rank; the
escapade was scarcely startling in his social world, but it had clung to
men's minds because of an additional tragedy: the alleged suicide of the
insulted husband, who appeared to have flung himself over a precipice in
Sicily. The prince then lived in Vienna for a time, but his more recent
years seemed to have been passed in perpetual and restless travel. But
when Flambeau, like the prince himself, had left European celebrity
and settled in England, it occurred to him that he might pay a surprise
visit to this eminent exile in the Norfolk Broads. Whether he should
find the place he had no idea; and, indeed, it was sufficiently small
and forgotten. But, as things fell out, he found it much sooner than he
They had moored their boat one night under a bank veiled in high grasses
and short pollarded trees. Sleep, after heavy sculling, had come to them
early, and by a corresponding accident they awoke before it was light.
To speak more strictly, they awoke before it was daylight; for a large
lemon moon was only just setting in the forest of high grass above their
heads, and the sky was of a vivid violet-blue, nocturnal but bright.
Both men had simultaneously a reminiscence of childhood, of the elfin
and adventurous time when tall weeds close over us like woods. Standing
up thus against the large low moon, the daisies really seemed to
be giant daisies, the dandelions to be giant dandelions. Somehow it
reminded them of the dado of a nursery wall-paper. The drop of the
river-bed sufficed to sink them under the roots of all shrubs and
flowers and make them gaze upwards at the grass. "By Jove!" said
Flambeau, "it's like being in fairyland."
Father Brown sat bolt upright in the boat and crossed himself. His
movement was so abrupt that his friend asked him, with a mild stare,
what was the matter.
"The people who wrote the mediaeval ballads," answered the priest, "knew
more about fairies than you do. It isn't only nice things that happen in
"Oh, bosh!" said Flambeau. "Only nice things could happen under such an
innocent moon. I am for pushing on now and seeing what does really come.
We may die and rot before we ever see again such a moon or such a mood."
"All right," said Father Brown. "I never said it was always wrong to
enter fairyland. I only said it was always dangerous."
They pushed slowly up the brightening river; the glowing violet of the
sky and the pale gold of the moon grew fainter and fainter, and faded
into that vast colourless cosmos that precedes the colours of the dawn.
When the first faint stripes of red and gold and grey split the horizon
from end to end they were broken by the black bulk of a town or village
which sat on the river just ahead of them. It was already an easy
twilight, in which all things were visible, when they came under the
hanging roofs and bridges of this riverside hamlet. The houses, with
their long, low, stooping roofs, seemed to come down to drink at the
river, like huge grey and red cattle. The broadening and whitening
dawn had already turned to working daylight before they saw any living
creature on the wharves and bridges of that silent town. Eventually they
saw a very placid and prosperous man in his shirt sleeves, with a face
as round as the recently sunken moon, and rays of red whisker around the
low arc of it, who was leaning on a post above the sluggish tide. By
an impulse not to be analysed, Flambeau rose to his full height in the
swaying boat and shouted at the man to ask if he knew Reed Island or
Reed House. The prosperous man's smile grew slightly more expansive,
and he simply pointed up the river towards the next bend of it. Flambeau
went ahead without further speech.
The boat took many such grassy corners and followed many such reedy and
silent reaches of river; but before the search had become monotonous
they had swung round a specially sharp angle and come into the silence
of a sort of pool or lake, the sight of which instinctively arrested
them. For in the middle of this wider piece of water, fringed on every
side with rushes, lay a long, low islet, along which ran a long, low
house or bungalow built of bamboo or some kind of tough tropic cane.
The upstanding rods of bamboo which made the walls were pale yellow, the
sloping rods that made the roof were of darker red or brown, otherwise
the long house was a thing of repetition and monotony. The early morning
breeze rustled the reeds round the island and sang in the strange ribbed
house as in a giant pan-pipe.
"By George!" cried Flambeau; "here is the place, after all! Here is Reed
Island, if ever there was one. Here is Reed House, if it is anywhere. I
believe that fat man with whiskers was a fairy."
"Perhaps," remarked Father Brown impartially. "If he was, he was a bad
But even as he spoke the impetuous Flambeau had run his boat ashore in
the rattling reeds, and they stood in the long, quaint islet beside the
odd and silent house.
The house stood with its back, as it were, to the river and the only
landing-stage; the main entrance was on the other side, and looked down
the long island garden. The visitors approached it, therefore, by a
small path running round nearly three sides of the house, close under
the low eaves. Through three different windows on three different sides
they looked in on the same long, well-lit room, panelled in light wood,
with a large number of looking-glasses, and laid out as for an elegant
lunch. The front door, when they came round to it at last, was flanked
by two turquoise-blue flower pots. It was opened by a butler of the
drearier type--long, lean, grey and listless--who murmured that Prince
Saradine was from home at present, but was expected hourly; the house
being kept ready for him and his guests. The exhibition of the card with
the scrawl of green ink awoke a flicker of life in the parchment face of
the depressed retainer, and it was with a certain shaky courtesy that
he suggested that the strangers should remain. "His Highness may be here
any minute," he said, "and would be distressed to have just missed any
gentleman he had invited. We have orders always to keep a little cold
lunch for him and his friends, and I am sure he would wish it to be
Moved with curiosity to this minor adventure, Flambeau assented
gracefully, and followed the old man, who ushered him ceremoniously into
the long, lightly panelled room. There was nothing very notable about
it, except the rather unusual alternation of many long, low windows with
many long, low oblongs of looking-glass, which gave a singular air
of lightness and unsubstantialness to the place. It was somehow like
lunching out of doors. One or two pictures of a quiet kind hung in the
corners, one a large grey photograph of a very young man in uniform,
another a red chalk sketch of two long-haired boys. Asked by Flambeau
whether the soldierly person was the prince, the butler answered shortly
in the negative; it was the prince's younger brother, Captain Stephen
Saradine, he said. And with that the old man seemed to dry up suddenly
and lose all taste for conversation.
After lunch had tailed off with exquisite coffee and liqueurs,
the guests were introduced to the garden, the library, and the
housekeeper--a dark, handsome lady, of no little majesty, and rather
like a plutonic Madonna. It appeared that she and the butler were
the only survivors of the prince's original foreign menage the other
servants now in the house being new and collected in Norfolk by the
housekeeper. This latter lady went by the name of Mrs. Anthony, but
she spoke with a slight Italian accent, and Flambeau did not doubt that
Anthony was a Norfolk version of some more Latin name. Mr. Paul,
the butler, also had a faintly foreign air, but he was in tongue and
training English, as are many of the most polished men-servants of the
Pretty and unique as it was, the place had about it a curious luminous
sadness. Hours passed in it like days. The long, well-windowed rooms
were full of daylight, but it seemed a dead daylight. And through all
other incidental noises, the sound of talk, the clink of glasses, or the
passing feet of servants, they could hear on all sides of the house the
melancholy noise of the river.
"We have taken a wrong turning, and come to a wrong place," said Father
Brown, looking out of the window at the grey-green sedges and the silver
flood. "Never mind; one can sometimes do good by being the right person
in the wrong place."
Father Brown, though commonly a silent, was an oddly sympathetic little
man, and in those few but endless hours he unconsciously sank deeper
into the secrets of Reed House than his professional friend. He had that
knack of friendly silence which is so essential to gossip; and saying
scarcely a word, he probably obtained from his new acquaintances all
that in any case they would have told. The butler indeed was naturally
uncommunicative. He betrayed a sullen and almost animal affection
for his master; who, he said, had been very badly treated. The chief
offender seemed to be his highness's brother, whose name alone would
lengthen the old man's lantern jaws and pucker his parrot nose into a
sneer. Captain Stephen was a ne'er-do-weel, apparently, and had drained
his benevolent brother of hundreds and thousands; forced him to fly from
fashionable life and live quietly in this retreat. That was all Paul,
the butler, would say, and Paul was obviously a partisan.
The Italian housekeeper was somewhat more communicative, being, as Brown
fancied, somewhat less content. Her tone about her master was faintly
acid; though not without a certain awe. Flambeau and his friend were
standing in the room of the looking-glasses examining the red sketch
of the two boys, when the housekeeper swept in swiftly on some domestic
errand. It was a peculiarity of this glittering, glass-panelled place
that anyone entering was reflected in four or five mirrors at once; and
Father Brown, without turning round, stopped in the middle of a sentence
of family criticism. But Flambeau, who had his face close up to the
picture, was already saying in a loud voice, "The brothers Saradine, I
suppose. They both look innocent enough. It would be hard to say which
is the good brother and which the bad." Then, realising the lady's
presence, he turned the conversation with some triviality, and strolled
out into the garden. But Father Brown still gazed steadily at the red
crayon sketch; and Mrs. Anthony still gazed steadily at Father Brown.
She had large and tragic brown eyes, and her olive face glowed darkly
with a curious and painful wonder--as of one doubtful of a stranger's
identity or purpose. Whether the little priest's coat and creed touched
some southern memories of confession, or whether she fancied he knew
more than he did, she said to him in a low voice as to a fellow plotter,
"He is right enough in one way, your friend. He says it would be hard
to pick out the good and bad brothers. Oh, it would be hard, it would be
mighty hard, to pick out the good one."
"I don't understand you," said Father Brown, and began to move away.
The woman took a step nearer to him, with thunderous brows and a sort of
savage stoop, like a bull lowering his horns.
"There isn't a good one," she hissed. "There was badness enough in the
captain taking all that money, but I don't think there was much goodness
in the prince giving it. The captain's not the only one with something
A light dawned on the cleric's averted face, and his mouth formed
silently the word "blackmail." Even as he did so the woman turned an
abrupt white face over her shoulder and almost fell. The door had opened
soundlessly and the pale Paul stood like a ghost in the doorway. By
the weird trick of the reflecting walls, it seemed as if five Pauls had
entered by five doors simultaneously.
"His Highness," he said, "has just arrived."
In the same flash the figure of a man had passed outside the first
window, crossing the sunlit pane like a lighted stage. An instant
later he passed at the second window and the many mirrors repainted in
successive frames the same eagle profile and marching figure. He was
erect and alert, but his hair was white and his complexion of an odd
ivory yellow. He had that short, curved Roman nose which generally
goes with long, lean cheeks and chin, but these were partly masked by
moustache and imperial. The moustache was much darker than the beard,
giving an effect slightly theatrical, and he was dressed up to the same
dashing part, having a white top hat, an orchid in his coat, a yellow
waistcoat and yellow gloves which he flapped and swung as he walked.
When he came round to the front door they heard the stiff Paul open it,
and heard the new arrival say cheerfully, "Well, you see I have come."
The stiff Mr. Paul bowed and answered in his inaudible manner; for a
few minutes their conversation could not be heard. Then the butler said,
"Everything is at your disposal;" and the glove-flapping Prince Saradine
came gaily into the room to greet them. They beheld once more that
spectral scene--five princes entering a room with five doors.
The prince put the white hat and yellow gloves on the table and offered
his hand quite cordially.
"Delighted to see you here, Mr. Flambeau," he said. "Knowing you very
well by reputation, if that's not an indiscreet remark."
"Not at all," answered Flambeau, laughing. "I am not sensitive. Very few
reputations are gained by unsullied virtue."
The prince flashed a sharp look at him to see if the retort had any
personal point; then he laughed also and offered chairs to everyone,
"Pleasant little place, this, I think," he said with a detached air.
"Not much to do, I fear; but the fishing is really good."
The priest, who was staring at him with the grave stare of a baby, was
haunted by some fancy that escaped definition. He looked at the grey,
carefully curled hair, yellow white visage, and slim, somewhat foppish
figure. These were not unnatural, though perhaps a shade prononcé, like
the outfit of a figure behind the footlights. The nameless interest
lay in something else, in the very framework of the face; Brown was
tormented with a half memory of having seen it somewhere before. The
man looked like some old friend of his dressed up. Then he suddenly
remembered the mirrors, and put his fancy down to some psychological
effect of that multiplication of human masks.
Prince Saradine distributed his social attentions between his guests
with great gaiety and tact. Finding the detective of a sporting turn and
eager to employ his holiday, he guided Flambeau and Flambeau's boat down
to the best fishing spot in the stream, and was back in his own canoe
in twenty minutes to join Father Brown in the library and plunge equally
politely into the priest's more philosophic pleasures. He seemed to know
a great deal both about the fishing and the books, though of these not
the most edifying; he spoke five or six languages, though chiefly the
slang of each. He had evidently lived in varied cities and very motley
societies, for some of his cheerfullest stories were about gambling
hells and opium dens, Australian bushrangers or Italian brigands. Father
Brown knew that the once-celebrated Saradine had spent his last few
years in almost ceaseless travel, but he had not guessed that the
travels were so disreputable or so amusing.
Indeed, with all his dignity of a man of the world, Prince Saradine
radiated to such sensitive observers as the priest, a certain atmosphere
of the restless and even the unreliable. His face was fastidious, but
his eye was wild; he had little nervous tricks, like a man shaken by
drink or drugs, and he neither had, nor professed to have, his hand
on the helm of household affairs. All these were left to the two old
servants, especially to the butler, who was plainly the central pillar
of the house. Mr. Paul, indeed, was not so much a butler as a sort of
steward or, even, chamberlain; he dined privately, but with almost
as much pomp as his master; he was feared by all the servants; and he
consulted with the prince decorously, but somewhat unbendingly--rather
as if he were the prince's solicitor. The sombre housekeeper was a mere
shadow in comparison; indeed, she seemed to efface herself and wait only
on the butler, and Brown heard no more of those volcanic whispers which
had half told him of the younger brother who blackmailed the elder.
Whether the prince was really being thus bled by the absent captain,
he could not be certain, but there was something insecure and secretive
about Saradine that made the tale by no means incredible.
When they went once more into the long hall with the windows and the
mirrors, yellow evening was dropping over the waters and the willowy
banks; and a bittern sounded in the distance like an elf upon his
dwarfish drum. The same singular sentiment of some sad and evil
fairyland crossed the priest's mind again like a little grey cloud. "I
wish Flambeau were back," he muttered.
"Do you believe in doom?" asked the restless Prince Saradine suddenly.
"No," answered his guest. "I believe in Doomsday."
The prince turned from the window and stared at him in a singular
manner, his face in shadow against the sunset. "What do you mean?" he
"I mean that we here are on the wrong side of the tapestry," answered
Father Brown. "The things that happen here do not seem to mean anything;
they mean something somewhere else. Somewhere else retribution will come
on the real offender. Here it often seems to fall on the wrong person."
The prince made an inexplicable noise like an animal; in his shadowed
face the eyes were shining queerly. A new and shrewd thought exploded
silently in the other's mind. Was there another meaning in Saradine's
blend of brilliancy and abruptness? Was the prince--Was he perfectly
sane? He was repeating, "The wrong person--the wrong person," many more
times than was natural in a social exclamation.
Then Father Brown awoke tardily to a second truth. In the mirrors before
him he could see the silent door standing open, and the silent Mr. Paul
standing in it, with his usual pallid impassiveness.
"I thought it better to announce at once," he said, with the same stiff
respectfulness as of an old family lawyer, "a boat rowed by six men
has come to the landing-stage, and there's a gentleman sitting in the
"A boat!" repeated the prince; "a gentleman?" and he rose to his feet.
There was a startled silence punctuated only by the odd noise of the
bird in the sedge; and then, before anyone could speak again, a new
face and figure passed in profile round the three sunlit windows, as
the prince had passed an hour or two before. But except for the accident
that both outlines were aquiline, they had little in common. Instead
of the new white topper of Saradine, was a black one of antiquated or
foreign shape; under it was a young and very solemn face, clean shaven,
blue about its resolute chin, and carrying a faint suggestion of the
young Napoleon. The association was assisted by something old and odd
about the whole get-up, as of a man who had never troubled to change
the fashions of his fathers. He had a shabby blue frock coat, a red,
soldierly looking waistcoat, and a kind of coarse white trousers common
among the early Victorians, but strangely incongruous today. From all
this old clothes-shop his olive face stood out strangely young and
"The deuce!" said Prince Saradine, and clapping on his white hat he went
to the front door himself, flinging it open on the sunset garden.
By that time the new-comer and his followers were drawn up on the lawn
like a small stage army. The six boatmen had pulled the boat well up on
shore, and were guarding it almost menacingly, holding their oars erect
like spears. They were swarthy men, and some of them wore earrings. But
one of them stood forward beside the olive-faced young man in the red
waistcoat, and carried a large black case of unfamiliar form.
"Your name," said the young man, "is Saradine?"
Saradine assented rather negligently.
The new-comer had dull, dog-like brown eyes, as different as possible
from the restless and glittering grey eyes of the prince. But once
again Father Brown was tortured with a sense of having seen somewhere a
replica of the face; and once again he remembered the repetitions of
the glass-panelled room, and put down the coincidence to that. "Confound
this crystal palace!" he muttered. "One sees everything too many times.
It's like a dream."
"If you are Prince Saradine," said the young man, "I may tell you that
my name is Antonelli."
"Antonelli," repeated the prince languidly. "Somehow I remember the
"Permit me to present myself," said the young Italian.
With his left hand he politely took off his old-fashioned top-hat; with
his right he caught Prince Saradine so ringing a crack across the
face that the white top hat rolled down the steps and one of the blue
flower-pots rocked upon its pedestal.
The prince, whatever he was, was evidently not a coward; he sprang at
his enemy's throat and almost bore him backwards to the grass. But his
enemy extricated himself with a singularly inappropriate air of hurried
"That is all right," he said, panting and in halting English. "I have
insulted. I will give satisfaction. Marco, open the case."
The man beside him with the earrings and the big black case proceeded
to unlock it. He took out of it two long Italian rapiers, with splendid
steel hilts and blades, which he planted point downwards in the lawn.
The strange young man standing facing the entrance with his yellow and
vindictive face, the two swords standing up in the turf like two crosses
in a cemetery, and the line of the ranked towers behind, gave it all an
odd appearance of being some barbaric court of justice. But everything
else was unchanged, so sudden had been the interruption. The sunset gold
still glowed on the lawn, and the bittern still boomed as announcing
some small but dreadful destiny.
"Prince Saradine," said the man called Antonelli, "when I was an infant
in the cradle you killed my father and stole my mother; my father was
the more fortunate. You did not kill him fairly, as I am going to kill
you. You and my wicked mother took him driving to a lonely pass in
Sicily, flung him down a cliff, and went on your way. I could imitate
you if I chose, but imitating you is too vile. I have followed you all
over the world, and you have always fled from me. But this is the end
of the world--and of you. I have you now, and I give you the chance you
never gave my father. Choose one of those swords."
Prince Saradine, with contracted brows, seemed to hesitate a moment,
but his ears were still singing with the blow, and he sprang forward
and snatched at one of the hilts. Father Brown had also sprung forward,
striving to compose the dispute; but he soon found his personal presence
made matters worse. Saradine was a French freemason and a fierce
atheist, and a priest moved him by the law of contraries. And for the
other man neither priest nor layman moved him at all. This young man
with the Bonaparte face and the brown eyes was something far sterner
than a puritan--a pagan. He was a simple slayer from the morning of the
earth; a man of the stone age--a man of stone.
One hope remained, the summoning of the household; and Father Brown ran
back into the house. He found, however, that all the under servants
had been given a holiday ashore by the autocrat Paul, and that only the
sombre Mrs. Anthony moved uneasily about the long rooms. But the moment
she turned a ghastly face upon him, he resolved one of the riddles of
the house of mirrors. The heavy brown eyes of Antonelli were the heavy
brown eyes of Mrs. Anthony; and in a flash he saw half the story.
"Your son is outside," he said without wasting words; "either he or the
prince will be killed. Where is Mr. Paul?"
"He is at the landing-stage," said the woman faintly. "He is--he
is--signalling for help."
"Mrs. Anthony," said Father Brown seriously, "there is no time for
nonsense. My friend has his boat down the river fishing. Your son's boat
is guarded by your son's men. There is only this one canoe; what is Mr.
Paul doing with it?"
"Santa Maria! I do not know," she said; and swooned all her length on
the matted floor.
Father Brown lifted her to a sofa, flung a pot of water over her,
shouted for help, and then rushed down to the landing-stage of the
little island. But the canoe was already in mid-stream, and old Paul
was pulling and pushing it up the river with an energy incredible at his
"I will save my master," he cried, his eyes blazing maniacally. "I will
save him yet!"
Father Brown could do nothing but gaze after the boat as it struggled
up-stream and pray that the old man might waken the little town in time.
"A duel is bad enough," he muttered, rubbing up his rough dust-coloured
hair, "but there's something wrong about this duel, even as a duel. I
feel it in my bones. But what can it be?"
As he stood staring at the water, a wavering mirror of sunset, he
heard from the other end of the island garden a small but unmistakable
sound--the cold concussion of steel. He turned his head.
Away on the farthest cape or headland of the long islet, on a strip of
turf beyond the last rank of roses, the duellists had already crossed
swords. Evening above them was a dome of virgin gold, and, distant as
they were, every detail was picked out. They had cast off their coats,
but the yellow waistcoat and white hair of Saradine, the red waistcoat
and white trousers of Antonelli, glittered in the level light like the
colours of the dancing clockwork dolls. The two swords sparkled from
point to pommel like two diamond pins. There was something frightful
in the two figures appearing so little and so gay. They looked like two
butterflies trying to pin each other to a cork.
Father Brown ran as hard as he could, his little legs going like a
wheel. But when he came to the field of combat he found he was born too
late and too early--too late to stop the strife, under the shadow of the
grim Sicilians leaning on their oars, and too early to anticipate any
disastrous issue of it. For the two men were singularly well matched,
the prince using his skill with a sort of cynical confidence, the
Sicilian using his with a murderous care. Few finer fencing matches can
ever have been seen in crowded amphitheatres than that which tinkled and
sparkled on that forgotten island in the reedy river. The dizzy fight
was balanced so long that hope began to revive in the protesting priest;
by all common probability Paul must soon come back with the police. It
would be some comfort even if Flambeau came back from his fishing, for
Flambeau, physically speaking, was worth four other men. But there was
no sign of Flambeau, and, what was much queerer, no sign of Paul or the
police. No other raft or stick was left to float on; in that lost
island in that vast nameless pool, they were cut off as on a rock in the
Almost as he had the thought the ringing of the rapiers quickened to a
rattle, the prince's arms flew up, and the point shot out behind between
his shoulder-blades. He went over with a great whirling movement, almost
like one throwing the half of a boy's cart-wheel. The sword flew from
his hand like a shooting star, and dived into the distant river. And
he himself sank with so earth-shaking a subsidence that he broke a
big rose-tree with his body and shook up into the sky a cloud of red
earth--like the smoke of some heathen sacrifice. The Sicilian had made
blood-offering to the ghost of his father.
The priest was instantly on his knees by the corpse; but only to make
too sure that it was a corpse. As he was still trying some last hopeless
tests he heard for the first time voices from farther up the river, and
saw a police boat shoot up to the landing-stage, with constables and
other important people, including the excited Paul. The little priest
rose with a distinctly dubious grimace.
"Now, why on earth," he muttered, "why on earth couldn't he have come
Some seven minutes later the island was occupied by an invasion
of townsfolk and police, and the latter had put their hands on the
victorious duellist, ritually reminding him that anything he said might
be used against him.
"I shall not say anything," said the monomaniac, with a wonderful and
peaceful face. "I shall never say anything more. I am very happy, and I
only want to be hanged."
Then he shut his mouth as they led him away, and it is the strange but
certain truth that he never opened it again in this world, except to say
"Guilty" at his trial.
Father Brown had stared at the suddenly crowded garden, the arrest of
the man of blood, the carrying away of the corpse after its examination
by the doctor, rather as one watches the break-up of some ugly dream; he
was motionless, like a man in a nightmare. He gave his name and address
as a witness, but declined their offer of a boat to the shore, and
remained alone in the island garden, gazing at the broken rose bush
and the whole green theatre of that swift and inexplicable tragedy. The
light died along the river; mist rose in the marshy banks; a few belated
birds flitted fitfully across.
Stuck stubbornly in his sub-consciousness (which was an unusually
lively one) was an unspeakable certainty that there was something still
unexplained. This sense that had clung to him all day could not be fully
explained by his fancy about "looking-glass land." Somehow he had not
seen the real story, but some game or masque. And yet people do not get
hanged or run through the body for the sake of a charade.
As he sat on the steps of the landing-stage ruminating he grew conscious
of the tall, dark streak of a sail coming silently down the shining
river, and sprang to his feet with such a backrush of feeling that he
"Flambeau!" he cried, and shook his friend by both hands again and
again, much to the astonishment of that sportsman, as he came on shore
with his fishing tackle. "Flambeau," he said, "so you're not killed?"
"Killed!" repeated the angler in great astonishment. "And why should I
"Oh, because nearly everybody else is," said his companion rather
wildly. "Saradine got murdered, and Antonelli wants to be hanged, and
his mother's fainted, and I, for one, don't know whether I'm in this
world or the next. But, thank God, you're in the same one." And he took
the bewildered Flambeau's arm.
As they turned from the landing-stage they came under the eaves of the
low bamboo house, and looked in through one of the windows, as they
had done on their first arrival. They beheld a lamp-lit interior well
calculated to arrest their eyes. The table in the long dining-room
had been laid for dinner when Saradine's destroyer had fallen like a
stormbolt on the island. And the dinner was now in placid progress, for
Mrs. Anthony sat somewhat sullenly at the foot of the table, while at
the head of it was Mr. Paul, the major domo, eating and drinking of the
best, his bleared, bluish eyes standing queerly out of his face, his
gaunt countenance inscrutable, but by no means devoid of satisfaction.
With a gesture of powerful impatience, Flambeau rattled at the window,
wrenched it open, and put an indignant head into the lamp-lit room.
"Well," he cried. "I can understand you may need some refreshment,
but really to steal your master's dinner while he lies murdered in the
"I have stolen a great many things in a long and pleasant life," replied
the strange old gentleman placidly; "this dinner is one of the few
things I have not stolen. This dinner and this house and garden happen
to belong to me."
A thought flashed across Flambeau's face. "You mean to say," he began,
"that the will of Prince Saradine--"
"I am Prince Saradine," said the old man, munching a salted almond.
Father Brown, who was looking at the birds outside, jumped as if he were
shot, and put in at the window a pale face like a turnip.
"You are what?" he repeated in a shrill voice.
"Paul, Prince Saradine, A vos ordres," said the venerable person
politely, lifting a glass of sherry. "I live here very quietly, being
a domestic kind of fellow; and for the sake of modesty I am called Mr.
Paul, to distinguish me from my unfortunate brother Mr. Stephen. He
died, I hear, recently--in the garden. Of course, it is not my fault
if enemies pursue him to this place. It is owing to the regrettable
irregularity of his life. He was not a domestic character."
He relapsed into silence, and continued to gaze at the opposite wall
just above the bowed and sombre head of the woman. They saw plainly
the family likeness that had haunted them in the dead man. Then his old
shoulders began to heave and shake a little, as if he were choking, but
his face did not alter.
"My God!" cried Flambeau after a pause, "he's laughing!"
"Come away," said Father Brown, who was quite white. "Come away from
this house of hell. Let us get into an honest boat again."
Night had sunk on rushes and river by the time they had pushed off from
the island, and they went down-stream in the dark, warming themselves
with two big cigars that glowed like crimson ships' lanterns. Father
Brown took his cigar out of his mouth and said:
"I suppose you can guess the whole story now? After all, it's a
primitive story. A man had two enemies. He was a wise man. And so he
discovered that two enemies are better than one."
"I do not follow that," answered Flambeau.
"Oh, it's really simple," rejoined his friend. "Simple, though anything
but innocent. Both the Saradines were scamps, but the prince, the
elder, was the sort of scamp that gets to the top, and the younger, the
captain, was the sort that sinks to the bottom. This squalid officer
fell from beggar to blackmailer, and one ugly day he got his hold upon
his brother, the prince. Obviously it was for no light matter, for
Prince Paul Saradine was frankly 'fast,' and had no reputation to lose
as to the mere sins of society. In plain fact, it was a hanging matter,
and Stephen literally had a rope round his brother's neck. He had
somehow discovered the truth about the Sicilian affair, and could prove
that Paul murdered old Antonelli in the mountains. The captain raked in
the hush money heavily for ten years, until even the prince's splendid
fortune began to look a little foolish.
"But Prince Saradine bore another burden besides his blood-sucking
brother. He knew that the son of Antonelli, a mere child at the time of
the murder, had been trained in savage Sicilian loyalty, and lived only
to avenge his father, not with the gibbet (for he lacked Stephen's legal
proof), but with the old weapons of vendetta. The boy had practised arms
with a deadly perfection, and about the time that he was old enough to
use them Prince Saradine began, as the society papers said, to travel.
The fact is that he began to flee for his life, passing from place
to place like a hunted criminal; but with one relentless man upon his
trail. That was Prince Paul's position, and by no means a pretty one.
The more money he spent on eluding Antonelli the less he had to silence
Stephen. The more he gave to silence Stephen the less chance there was
of finally escaping Antonelli. Then it was that he showed himself a
great man--a genius like Napoleon.
"Instead of resisting his two antagonists, he surrendered suddenly to
both of them. He gave way like a Japanese wrestler, and his foes fell
prostrate before him. He gave up the race round the world, and he gave
up his address to young Antonelli; then he gave up everything to his
brother. He sent Stephen money enough for smart clothes and easy travel,
with a letter saying roughly: 'This is all I have left. You have cleaned
me out. I still have a little house in Norfolk, with servants and a
cellar, and if you want more from me you must take that. Come and take
possession if you like, and I will live there quietly as your friend
or agent or anything.' He knew that the Sicilian had never seen the
Saradine brothers save, perhaps, in pictures; he knew they were somewhat
alike, both having grey, pointed beards. Then he shaved his own face
and waited. The trap worked. The unhappy captain, in his new clothes,
entered the house in triumph as a prince, and walked upon the Sicilian's
"There was one hitch, and it is to the honour of human nature. Evil
spirits like Saradine often blunder by never
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